Black Music Matters Festival

Dave Alvin shows off recent creations

The Troubadour, West Hollywood, Cal., Aug. 6, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - Dave Alvin began his performance with the rockabilly rave-up "So Long Baby Goodbye," which originated as a favorite by The Blasters, a band he previously co-led with his vocalist brother, Phil.

And tonight's initial energy burst waned little for the rest of this powerfully rocking show. Even when he reached the so-called acoustic segment of his show, which never happened as his guitar didn't sound check quite right, he went straight back to his electric instrument. "It's all the same notes, anyway," as he put it. Well, not exactly Dave.

This is because whenever Alvin has his amplified axe in hand, his interactions with fellow musicians propel him onward and upward to beautiful musical places. Besides, the notes are never quite alike any two times Alvin plays them, since he never fails to inject new life into them each and every time out.

Backed by his ever-rotating Guilty Men band (this time featuring the not so manly Amy Farris on fiddle), Alvin rocked the joint - just he like always does. He also put a lot of faith in his newly released "Ashgrove" album, by turning to its songs again and again during the set. For instance, he even played its track "Black Sky" for his first encore. He also performed "Rio Grande," "Sinful Daughter," "Out Control" and the new album's title cut, as well.

"The blues are gonna find you," say the lyrics to "Ashgrove," and these blues clearly found him, held him and inspired him for much of this blues guitar-centered show. Alvin can sound like Woody Guthrie one minute,and Johnny Cash the next. But for this night, blues men like Albert King mostly came to mind.

Alvin has so many wonderful songs, including older favorites like "King of California," "4th of July" and "Abilene," all of which he performed tonight. Much like the historic original Ashgrove club that inspired the title of his latest release - it sadly burned down many years ago - the current Troubadour also has a storied reputation of being a showcase for special songwriters. And tonight, Alvin proved that he belonged right their among this club's many past high profile performers.

Anne McCue preceded Alvin with a little electrified blues scorching of her own. Much like Bonnie Raitt has trail blazed before her, this sister does it for herself on electric lead guitar. So during songs with widely ranging lyrics, which jumped from the topics of fascism to $50 whores to the Ku Klux Klan - she let the blues ring out loud and clear. Earlier in the evening, the gentile Amy Farris filled X's "Poor Girl" and her own "Pretty Dresses" with much contrasting sweetness.

This was the sort of night that a club like The Troubadour was built for: Just like the Ashgrove of old, it acted as a place where skilled songwriters showed off their most recent creations.