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Dave Alvin opens the pages of his rare song catalog for an 'All Rare Songs' show.

In Early February Dave traveled to Pennsylvania for two shows. Riding high on his Grammy nomination for Public Domain as 'Best Traditional Folk album', Dave had nothing to prove to his audience. He could just play his familiar songs and go home. Right? Nope! Dave decided to pull out some rare gems.
The first night Dave played a benefit for the Media Youth Center with Chris Smither at the Media Theatre. The beautiful old theatre in Media, PA, was built in 1927 by a local entrepreneur as a movie house. He insisted it have a big stage and dressing rooms because he believed vaudeville would make a comeback. After many years of the theatre falling into disrepair, one of Media's elite citizens donated a million dollars to renovate the theatre. Today it's used for community plays, youth events and concerts and those dressing rooms are put to good use.
Dave's set list and rapport with the audience was very formal. He planned to loosen things up at The Tin Angel club gig the next night. In Media, he finished his set with WANDA & DUANE loosening up the audience with a lot of ad lib dialog and jokes about the song's story line. After Chris Smither's set, Dave joined Chris for a duo version of Bob Dylan's AFTER THE FLOOD.
Night #2 - Philadelphia - The Tin Angel announcer started the show saying "I enjoy being able to say this. Please welcome Grammy nominated Dave Alvin." The crowd applauded and Dave responded in his usual humble way: "They were drinkin' over at the Grammy Nominations."
Dave opened with BLACKJACK DAVID, a perfect song for the
Public Domain theme. After the song Dave reminded us how cold it was here in the Northeast by asking: "Why would Dave leave the warm confines of southern California and come to Philadelphia alone and on a Sunday? I don't know. (laughs) Larry of the Tin Angel held a benefit last night at the Media Theatre and asked me to play the Tin Angel. There's no punch line to this. So that's why I'm here."
After KING OF CALIFORNIA Dave hit us with the first of his rarities: BARN BURNING, which he hasn't played that in a few years. The last time may have been at the taping of the Austin City Limits TV show. Dave finished stating "That was a happy song about death, murder, and mayhem. Let's do another." -- MARY BROWN.
In the intro. to the next song, Dave told a new story about writing an old song: "This next song is about a building in my old stomping grounds. It's not there anymore, it's now a mini mall." The song was HELP YOU DREAM, the old Blasters song. Wow! Dave has never played the song solo so this was a big treat. I wonder if Dave knows that when Phil plays the song with the Blasters, he dedicates it to Dave saying: "This goes out to my brother David who is in a bar somewhere lying to a girl."
Dave played a block of
Public Domain songs that he rarely plays. Dave: "The only time I play the following songs is when I'm in my living room. Let's pretend were in my living room." The first was the old mountain song, SHORT LIFE OF TROUBLE, featuring great guitar work by Dave.
Dave announced he had never played the next song solo. He had played it with the Guilty men on the west coast this past summer in a full band arrangement. Here in an acoustic setting, it would be just like when Dave learned it in his living room. Dave: "I couldn't come close to adding anything new to this mountain ballad, so I turned it into a Chicago Blues tune." The song is called DON'T LET YOUR DEAL GO DOWN. Then Dave finished off with a beautiful version of Public Domain's closing song, SIGN OF JUDGEMENT. Fantastic!
At this point everyone could have gone home blown away by all the rare songs . . .but Dave wasn't finished. Here is how he set up the next song: "Last Time I did this song was nine years ago in Washington, D.C. When I did it then, I hadn't done it in many years. But I'll do it because people say 'Dave, you don't anything but depressing songs.' So I'll do this one." Dave played the rare but great FARAWAY from his first solo album
Romeo's Escape. It was definitely a high point of the show.
Next Dave really rocked the place with LONG WHITE CADILLAC. In the encore Dave brought out   DELIA from
Public Domain. Dave: "It's one of my favorite songs ever. It's a love song that is cloaked as a murder ballad. I think ALL murder ballads are love songs (laughs). It's a true story about a murder in 1899 in Savannah, GA. I was about 13 when I first heard it on Blind Willie McTell's Library of Congress recordings. This is actually a cubist folk song. It's a song from everybody's point of view, but my favorite guy is the narrator who is the kind of guy standing in the back and never says a word to anybody. This is his song."
Next Dave did a song that is so rare that nobody has ever even yelled it out as a request. Dave: "Because I'm feeling goofy. I'd like to do the first song I ever wrote. FLATTOP JOINT." What a thrill to hear Dave play his classic rockabilly licks on the acoustic guitar; it made for a very interesting and quite different version.
Toning the mood down, Dave played FROM A KITCHEN TABLE then stepping it up again he started explaining how he came to play a new acoustic version of MARIE MARIE the previous night in Media: "Last night in Media while waiting for the festivities to commence, I was playing around with a cockamamie tuning and it sounded pretty good. I could never play this song by myself. But now I started thinking, maybe I don't need a band (laughs.) I can put all that money in stocks and bonds. It'll take me about 15 years to get it right, then I'll axe the band (laughs)."
What a show. A rare, memorable, special, exciting winter solo gig in Philly. 
~~ AM


Recording into a New Blaster Era:
The Twenty First Century Blasters

The Blasters are recording a new album in Hollywood, CA, at the Musicians Institute studios. The band is recording independently and will wait until the project is done to determine how it will be released.


Nobody knew what song Phil would start to sing. It turned out to be IT'S A DOWN RIGHT ROTTEN LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME with some altered Phil Alvin lyrics. Phil can really belt out the blues. Dave Alvin has called his brother one of the best white blues singers of all time.
Before HELP YOU DREAM, Phil made his usual dedication. Phil: "This goes out to my brother David who is in a bar somewhere lying to a girl." Well, at least Phil was right about Dave being in a bar. He had a gig at The Casbah in San Diego at the exact same time. MARIE MARIE finished the Blasters set with Jerry Angel having a little fun. He kept speeding up the tempo while grinning and waiting for a response from Phil, who was never phased. That was the fastest version of MARIE MARIE I've ever heard.
The next day, on New Year's Eve, three blocks which form the Long Beach Promenade were closed off for the New Years festivities. Lining the streets were food and drink vendors, games, carnival rides and two out-door music stages. James Intveld played on a cool outdoor amphitheater with waterfalls and canals made of concrete.
The Dave Alvin show started inside the Blue Cafe at 10 PM on the small stage with the complete Guilty Men and Brantley Kearns. Dave greeted the audience saying, "We survived the year 2000. I'm so happy to be in my old stomping grounds here in Long Beach.
Dave started off with the appropriate KING OF CALIFORNIA. The band played two Public Domain songs, one of which was a great full band version of DARK EYES. Chris Gaffney snuck on stage and played the accordion. Soon after, Dave pulled out a song we haven't heard in a long time - BETWEEN THE CRACKS from his Blue Blvd album (Hightone 1991). Gaffney played accordion again and with a different groove it became a Cajun song. Dave: "I wanted to give BETWEEN THE CRACKS another try. When Tom (Russell) and I were writing it, it was supposed to be a Doug Sahm song. Both of our versions were different. So I thought, let's do it the original way it was intended. I had a lot of fun doing that."
For the next song, Dave suddenly started playing an opening riff to a Johnny Guitar Watson song. Most of the Guilty Men looked at each other thinking, "That's not on the set list. What is this?" Then they realized it was GANGSTER OF LOVE, which they hadn't played in years. At this point, the set list was changing. Dave: "Right before I did that song, I realized we were doing our regular set. We're not doing a show here, we're playing a party. So Let's play a party. I threw them all for a loop." Dave just rocked on guitar on GANGSTER. He changed the lyric to accommodate the Alvin Brothers weekend thread. He sang, "The sheriff says to me, 'Are you Lee Allen?' I said, 'No.' The sheriff said to me, 'Are you Phil Alvin?' In a very deep voice I said, 'No sir, brother sheriff. But nonetheless daddy-o, that's your wife on the back of my horse.'" Dave finished off the year 2000 with AMERICAN MUSIC and took a break to watch the clock strike midnight.
To start the year 2001, Dave played guitar behind 6 consecutive songs without his vocals. They played the R & B Shuffle instrumental that they usually finish their shows with, then Gaffney sang PEOPLE GET READY and HONKY TONK. Bobby Lloyd sang CRAZY COUNTRY HOP and Rick sang Johnny Cash's WANTED MAN. Finally, Dave took over the vocals for the first time in 2001 with MUSEUM OF HEART and then LONG WHITE CADILLAC.  As the Blasters did the night before, Dave finished off the Alvin Brothers weekend with a high energy MARIE MARIE.

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