Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Dave Alvin, Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and self-described "barroom guitarist," is widely considered to be one of the pivotal founders of the current Americana music scene.
Since forming the highly influential roots rock/R+B band The Blasters, with his brother Phil in 1979, and throughout his long and critically acclaimed solo career, Dave Alvin has mixed his varied musical and literary influences into his own unique, updated version of traditional American music. Combining elements of blues, folk, R+B, rockabilly, Bakersfield country and garage rock and roll with lyrical inspiration from local writers and poets like Raymond Chandler, Gerald Locklin and Charles Bukowski, Alvin says that his songs are "just like California. A big, messy melting pot."
Dave Alvin's 30 years of recordings and live performances prove his statement. From the loud, aggressive rock and roll of The Blasters to the contemplative acoustic storytelling of his solo albums, KING OF CALIFORNIA and BLACKJACK DAVID, and from the traditional folk of his Grammy winning CD, PUBLIC DOMAIN, to the electric blues of his ASHGROVE CD, Alvin has always managed to unite seemingly disparate genres into a cohesive vision of contemporary roots music. On his two most recent recordings, DAVE ALVIN AND THE GUILTY WOMEN and WEST OF THE WEST (A Tribute To Native California Songwriters) Alvin continues to expand his musical range by adding doo wop, western swing, surf, norteno music and psychedelic jams to his already eclectic mix. "I have a pretty broad definition of folk music," Alvin laughs. "To put it simply, there are two types of folk music. There's quiet folk music and there's loud folk music. I like to play both."
A fourth generation Californian, Dave Alvin grew up in Downey, California as the local landscape quickly evolved from orange groves and dairy farms to tract homes and freeways. On songs like Dry River, his lyrics reflect the sadness and alienation brought about by these dramatic environmental changes while many of Alvin's other songs are filled with working class people trapped in what he calls, "the tough, confusing no-mans-land where dreams collide with the harsh realities of day to day living." In songs like King Of California, Out Of Control and California Snow, Alvin's characters struggle to somehow survive in the not-so-Promised Land of California. Much of Alvin's sympathies and world view were inherited from his parents. His father, Cass, was a union organizer who rode the rails out to California during the Great Depression and his mother, Nana, was born and raised in the small San Joaquin Valley farming town of Reedley, He also learned empathy first hand from the elder blues performers who befriended and mentored Alvin and his brother Phil when they were young boys sneaking into bars to hear the music they loved. In songs like Ashgrove and Boss Of The Blues, Alvin not only celebrates these early heroes for their musical legacy but also for the important lessons they taught him about love, hope and survival.
Dave Alvin's songs have been recorded by a who's who of contemporary roots artists from Los Lobos, Little Milton and Joe Ely to Dwight Yoakam, James McMurtry and X. His songs have also been featured in many movies and television shows including The Sopranos, True Blood, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Crybaby, Miss Congeniality and From Dusk To Dawn.