Dave Alvin is one of those guys you have to love. He continuously makes great albums that encompass most of the genres that make up “American” music, and he does it without much fanfare. Here, the former guitarist for the Blasters and X covers songs he and his brother, Phil, discovered when they were kids learning about music. It makes perfect sense. The blend of folk, country, and blues is what has driven him ever since I first heard him in the early ’80s in the Blasters.
Some of these songs you’ll definitely know. “Shenandoah” is turned into a soulful ride with nice solos all around. “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” is presented as a raucous country-blues that features Dave on some rowdy electric guitar. “Railroad Bill” is one of many songs on the album that are timeless in nature. It literally is a reading in American musical history as you walk through the 15 listed cuts, and the one hidden instrumental track that wraps the whole idea up perfectly.
The players are wonderful throughout, lending each song just what it needs. Alvin’s Guilty Men band is featured, including the wonderful Rick Shea on guitars, mandolin, and pedal steel. Guests include Greg Leisz, who shines on dobro, slide, and mandolin. And Alvin supplies guitar that fits just where it should be and vocals that fit the mood of each song perfectly. Dave Alvin is a national treasure. Check him out as soon as possible. Recommended.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’00 issue.