Blackjack Dave

Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin returns to Casbeers

When the Blasters blasted out of Downey, California (home of the Carpenters!) in the early '80s, they launched a movement much bigger than their own modest record sales would suggest. They weren't the first band of their era to celebrate American roots music. Rockpile, among others, had been doing it in England for a few years. And they didn't put retro-rock on the charts the way the Stray Cats went on to do. But their finely honed blend of R&B, rockabilly, and Chicano border music made the world safe for Los Lobos and a host of cowpunk bands that followed.

What made the Blasters special, and what saved them from the cartoonish gimmickry of the Stray Cats, was that they applied their traditional tastes to songs that resided in the modern world, much as Creedence Clearwater Revival had done more than a decade earlier. In that sense, Dave Alvin was the Blasters' John Fogerty. He didn't sing lead - that role was taken by brother Phil - but as the band's chief songwriter and visionary, he made them not just rootsy but relevant.

Current Choice

Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men
Sunday, October 3
1719 Blanco
Alvin's father was a steelworkers union organizer, and he bestowed on his son a sharp eye for the hard battles of blue-collar America. Alvin's songs have been recorded by Marshall Crenshaw ("Wanda and Duane"), his erstwhile bandmates X ("4th of July"), and a host of others, but the best proof of his songwriting prowess is available on his string of solo releases. His new album, Ashgrove (Yep Roc), meets the standards of obscure Alvin gems such as Blackjack David and King of California. The man was Americana before music critics gave it a name, and he still does it better than most. •

By Gilbert Garcia

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