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Alvin boys embrace music

McCabe's, Santa Monica, Cal., January 25, 2016

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Dave Alvin provided more than just an intimate performance along with his brother Phil on the second of two sold-out shows. Alvin also gave the audience a lesson in blues history. He added a brief biographical sketch of Leroy Carr before the siblings played his song "Papa's on the House Top" and also lent some insight into Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey's life before the pair sang "If You See My Savior," which Dave described as an appropriate Sunday night song.

Dave Alvin handled the first half of the show by mostly playing acoustic versions of his solo songs, accompanied by guitarist Chris Miller. Alvin's solo set was highlighted by a couple of gems from his "Blackjack David" album, including the murder ballad, "Mary Brown" and an electric guitar-accompanied "Abilene."

Dave also sang "Black Rose of Texas," originally written for the late Amy Farris (the fiddler/vocalist in his Guilty Women band), and dedicated it to the many fine musicians we've lost of late. The snippet of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" he played at the end of the show gave some indication of just which musicians he had in mind for this dedication.

The show took on a looser, more upbeat feel once Phil joined Dave onstage after a brief intermission. Songs like "Cherry Red Blues" showcased why Phil is a true stylistic descendant of great blues singers like Big Joe Turner. Even with relatively lightheartedness of the show's second half, Dave introduced the sad commentary of "World's in a Bad Condition" as a lyric that would fit into nearly any human era.

It's sometimes easy to take these two Downey, Cal. natives for granted because they often play shows in the L.A. area. They're more than just a couple of local boys made good though. As the rockabilly revival band The Blasters, these two showed just one side of their musical personalities. Dave went on to an equally successful solo career as a folk/country singer/songwriter. Now as touring and recording pair, Dave and Phil Alvin are fully embracing their blues inspirations. Seen in retrospect, their early Blasters hit, "American Music" was truly prophetic about the many good things to come.