There aren't but a few guitarists from the '80s underground with the skill of Dave Alvin, and none with the versatility. Whether leading punkabilly rockers The Blasters, playing with gothic-punkers The Flesheaters, standing in for Billy Zoom as guitarist for L.A. punk originals X, or forging his own catalogue of blues and country solo albums, Alvin's displayed an astounding feel for his material. Since striking out on his own in the late '80s, he's traced the winding road of roots rock on seven albums of uniformly terrific quality. Within any given album, there's likely to be a mix of old rock 'n' roll and rockabilly, the twang of Bakersfield country swing, and blues styles inspired by T-Bone Walker, Lee Smith, and Big Joe Turner. Alvin released the Grammy Award-winning Public Domain in 2000, featuring 15 old-timey country-folk tunes wonderfully (re-)interpreted by his crack backing band, the Guilty Men. His new album, Ashgrove, takes a few steps back toward the electrified blues of his early career and away from the Americana that's preoccupied him for well on a decade.
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