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Dave Alvin: A Link To The Past And Present

A Singer-songwriter who only required a pen and guitar to express his thoughts on American life. As a Californian teen, Dave Alvin and his brother had an unconventional upbringing to become roots artists. Through a decade long battle honing his sound, Alvin had risen to be one of the most prolific songwriters for roots rock.

An exemplary career, the artist has proven that determination and grit can lead to fruition. At the age of 65, he continues to show just that.

The Grammy award winner releases a tribute piece from the past with his newest album From An Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings. The 16-track compilation features never released recorded work from Alvin. His burning features through tribute songs and original material is a collection of mixed settings. From diner ballads to rockin’ bar rooms, Alvin expertly weaves this record back into the conscience of others who long awaited his return.

Alvin kicks off the listening experience with a stand-up opener that brings back what made his voice memorable. “Link of Chain” exposes the rocksteady slide guitar and rhythmic acoustic that Alvin smooths together. Through Alvin’s subtle tone and spoken word approach the track communicates an intimate side of the singer. In a blues nuance, Alvin shares just a glimpse of what made his roots rock so unique from the contemporaries of his time. While his gravelly voice dissipates into the background, he conveys a desire to show more of his collection.

A natural storyteller, Alvin makes his poetry manifest into an electric guitar. The life of it is revealed in Alvin’s spiritual experience in “Highway 61 Revisited”. The perennial classic from Bob Dylan is given a stoic take on the song’s meaning on life’s pitfalls. While Dylan’s paradigm has been covered by many artists over the years, Alvin’s harsh guitar personify its true essence. His barreling voice and clear articulation slow the track into a dark view on a long stretch highway not for the faint of heart. The perilous journey reaches its end as the listener passes through the highway as the track fades into nothing.

Alvin’s gifted ability to understand others is what brings new life into his cover’s and own soundtracks. He extends his own gratitude to his heroes throughout the album. The listener can find inspirations of Waylon Jennings, Doug Sahm and Tom Waits in every piece. But Alvin lets it loose to his biggest idol, Earl Hooker, in the tantalizing “Guitar Rumba”. The guitarist shakes every dance floor vibe that echo Hooker’s style and soul. The spirited performance is given a roots inspired approach complete with an accordion and slide guitar duet. In this rustic rendition, Alvin pierces through what had been a monumental journey in his life of becoming the guitar’s master.

Even with an array of memorializing past influencers and pioneers, Alvin doesn’t stop the party. An injection from a late blues icon, “Peace” is Alvin’s paramount succession from Willie Dixon. As the singer adds his own distinctive voice to the track, a driving rhythm and uptight guitar keeps the listener grounded. The smooth blend of jazz, blues and roots rock lead to a climatic union of all genres in Alvin’s unleashed performance.

While Alvin extends his appreciation to icons and former collaborators, he includes original tracks to balance it out. The most popular from this material is the pop classic “Beautiful City ‘Cross The River”. Known for its brief appearance in the primetime hit tv show Justified, track shows its same runaway energy that propelled its place on the show. Alvin’s ode to past legends and own electric style create a masterful piece of envious guitarwork. In what’s a solid work on showcasing the traditional style and smith-like arrangements in one album. All through strong roots in every American genre and a talent for displaying the work of others.

Written by Trenton Luber


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