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For Dave Alvin, Thursday feels like Friday

Johnny D's, Somerville, MA, June 6, 2013

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Dave Alvin just about hit the nail on the head after finishing Long White Cadillac. "I really do appreciate you coming out on a Thursday, but for a few seconds, I felt a Friday," he told the packed crowd in what would be yet another in a long line of top notch shows from the veteran.

He was praising the crowd for the enthusiasm it brought, but it was at least as much the other way around,

Alvin doesn't have a brand new album to tour behind - his last disc was "Eleven Eleven," out almost exactly 2 years ago - although he has the very good fortune of being on the "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" soundtrack. That rock opera collaboration between T Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp and Stephen King, which came out Tuesday, features Alvin, brother Phil and mainly Sheryl Crow on five different cuts.

Simply put, new material or not, Alvin is a road warrior of the highest degree. And that is a supreme compliment given that he always brings it.

Alvin touched on "Eleven Eleven" from the get go, starting with Harlan County Line, before quickly dipping into probably his best known song Fourth of July. Risky stuff to put such a song so early in what would be a 110-minute show. But like one of his mentors, Bob Dylan, Alvin changed it up considerably vocally and musically. Fourth of July was certainly recognizable, but give Alvin and company credit for doing something a little different.

Alvin wasn't shy about delving into death, playing a few more songs from his last disc, Johnny Ace Is Dead, about the singer who accidentally killed himself backstage before a show, and Black Rose of Texas, a song about his late band member Amy Farris, who sadly died almost four years ago.

But this was not a maudlin evening by any stretch. Alvin has a sense of humor and charisma. Even when he plugged his merch table a few times, you had the sense of "wink wink" with Alvin.

And he knows how to embrace the crowd, such as changing his first encore song to an extended bluesy rocker based on a request and abandoning the set list at that point.

Alvin wasn't the only one who delivered. His usual backing trio was superb. Lisa Pankratz sets a very steady soft without resorting to pounding away. She sure was one intense, serious player. The Austinite was not given to smiling either, as if she needed to keep pushing to prove she was doing a good job. Her husband, Brad Fordham, was muscular on bass as was guitarist Chris Miller.

Alvin took most of the lead guitar lines, often with a steely edge to his playing. But Miller also enjoyed his share of lead guitar. If he was playing with someone else, he'd easily take care of all of the leads no problem. But that's the price of playing with Alvin.

As if to underscore the abilities of the band, Alvin left the stage when he was done with the closing number of the night, Marie Marie, but the band was not done. Usually in similar situations, the band will vamp a minute and quickly call it a night. Not this trio. They played on a few minutes after their leader left.

It wasn't quite Friday by the time the show ended, but Alvin was right. It sure felt like it.