Dave Alvin – Songwriter Supreme

The good – A great storyteller

The bad – Unknown to the masses

The ugly – Nothing


My first exposure to Grammy Award winner Dave Alvin was on October 26, 1998, when he was the opening act for a concert at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, IN. We didn’t even know he was on the bill. We went to see Joni Mitchell, with only a passing interest in the headliner, Bob Dylan. We always arrive early at concerts so I can check out the band’s gear and the PA rig. I’m glad we did on this night, as my exposure to Dave Alvin opened up a whole new world of music to me. He immediately became one of my favorite artists.

Beyond The Blasters
The day after the concert, I went on the Internet to find out more about Dave Alvin. The first thing I learned is that he has an extremely passionate and loyal fan base. He previously played guitar and wrote songs in The Blasters, a band that he had formed with his brother, Phil (lead vocalist and songwriter).

Dave’s first solo album was released in 1987, and he had just released his sixth solo album in 1998. I then went to a couple of local stores and bought all of his CDs that I could find (three), then ordered the others online. I was pleasured with song-writing treasures that I had only been able to hear hints of in the large and loud concert venue.

Songs that tell great stories
Dave Alvin tells real stories about human relationships and life’s events. Reflective and engaging stories for adults, not drug-induced fantasies or fairy tales. Like real human lives, his stories hit all the emotions from the highs to the lows. Stories of “good” love and “bad.” Stories about lives that followed the wrong path, ending up in unfortunate situations. Stories of happiness and despair. Stories that you can easily relate to. It’s all there, and some of it will tear your heart out and make you cry. Great stuff.

American Music
Dave Alvin’s music is often referred to as Americana—”roots” or American music, mixing elements of folk, blues, rock-and-roll, “traditional” country, soul, etc., from acoustic to electric, Texas swing to zydeco, folk to rock, traditional to contemporary. He covers a LOT of ground, in his own unique style, and does it all very well. Dave’s music has opened my ears and mind to a wide mix of music styles that I had previously given very little attention.

Meeting Dave Alvin and his band
On February 18, 1999, I saw Dave Alvin and his band perform in Columbus, OH, at a medium-small club called Little Brothers. We got there before the doors opened and were the first ones in. We sat at a table in the first row, dead-center to the stage. I knew all of his songs by heart by this time, and actually found myself singing along to my favorites. It was a GREAT show—in the top five of my all-time favorite concerts. But as Dave played his last song, my great experience was soon to get a whole lot better.

We hung around after the show and struck up a conversation with the drummer. He eventually asked us if we’d like to met Dave Alvin, went back to the dressing room to see if Dave would see us, then led us back into the dressing room. We spoke with Dave for about 20 minutes, I suppose. Maybe longer. It was just Dave, my old Ohio friend Jeff, and me. Dave was very engaging and made us feel as though he was interested in every moment of our conversation. He was a really great and interesting person.

After talking with Dave, we went out to the front of the stage and met and spoke with each member of his band. They were all great people. I learned about their gear, their music careers, etc. It was great fun. We finally rolled out of the club about an hour after the show had ended. It’s a night that I will always remember.

My favorite Dave Alvin albums
If I were stuck on a desert island, these are the four Dave Alvin albums I’d want with me: King of California, Blackjack David, Ashgrove, and Museum of Heart. I like ALL of Dave’s albums, but these are the ones I seem to play over and over.

An NPR audio interview
National Public Radio did an interview with Dave Alvin, talking about his GREAT song “The Man In The Bed.” You hear the song intermixed with the interview. A very touching story inspired by the death of his father. You can hear it at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4709630. GREAT stuff.

You can learn more about Dave Alvin, and listen to his music, on his official website at http://www.davealvin.net/.


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