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Latest News Continued -- Dave: "I was really touched. Skip's a much better musician than I'll ever be, so it was a beautiful thing." -- Dave Alvin was interviewed for The Women There Don't Treat You Mean: Abilene in Song, (State House Press) a new book by Joe W. Specht. Dave discussed his song ABILENE. The book comes with a CD featuring five Abilene-related songs. -- Former Blasters saxophonist Lee Allen was interviewed and is quoted in Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock 'N' Roll (Da Capo Press) by Rick Coleman. Lee who performed in the studio and on the road with Fats, is featured in 6 photos. - Dave Alvin's 4th OF JULY was recently featured on HBO's The Sopranos. - Dave Alvin will be taping an episode of Howard Larman's radio show Folkscene in late May, and will air in July. Dave and Greg Leisz will be interviewed on NPR's California Connected radio show and Dave will do the World Café radio show on 7/10/06
~ AM

West Of The West

SONORA'S DEATH ROW - (Blackie Farrell) Blackie was one of the original members of Asleep At The Wheel. They started out in the bay area and other than Ray Benson, the personnel was entirely different. A number of people recorded it, like Michael Mark Murphy, Robert Earl Keen, and even Tom Russell did it on one of his cowboy records. Those versions are in the Mexican-border, Spanish-flavor style. I wanted to make mine sound different. I thought of it as an Appalachian ballad that got lost on the hottest day of the year.
You can say it was written about Sonora, CA, or Sonora, NM, or Sonora, TX., There was once something said about Sonora, TX: when you were going into town, it was so bad it was like being on Death Row.

- (David Hidalgo and Louie Perez) That's from a Los Lobos album called The Neighborhood. Their version is a big electric funky thing. It's good but very different. The song is really just a blues, and felt real natural. You'll hear a little tribute to I'M SHAKIN at the end of the song. That was planned. David Hidalgo said he always loved the Blasters I'M SHAKIN'. Years ago when David Hidalgo made The Neighborhood he told me that RIVER BED was his attempt to do that kind of song. I don't think he even remembers telling me that. So I said, "OK, here we go. This is where we meet. I'm gonna throw I'M SHAKIN' in there."

- (Tom Russell and Dave Alvin) Of all the songs that Tom and I wrote together, this is the only one I thought I never got a good version of. It's like a Doug Sahm-meets-Creedence-meets-a-Norteno-band kind of song. I wanted a flash accordion player. Gaffney is more of a soulful player. So I used the Blazers Jesus Cuevas. Gaffney highly recommended him. Gaffney came in later and recorded his backing vocal.

- (John Fogerty) Fogerty is problematic because unless you drastically rearrange the song, you have to do it like Fogerty. They don't work any other way. I always liked the lyrics and the way Creedence did it as a Chicago blues. I thought it sounded like Willie Dixon's lyric style.

- (Jim Ringer)  My version is sort of like Jim Ringer's. His was piano and violin. The main idea on this CD was that the vocals had to be good - Not to compete with the original artists but to do them justice.

- (Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter) My version is different from Garcia's - It's darker and bluesier. The original appeared on Jerry's first solo record. I always liked the lyrics and thought they were Dave Alvin-style.
I put in a psychedelic section in there that is a tribute to the San Francisco sound. Jerry has an iconic voice - very recognizable - so it sounds wrong to hear someone else singing it. I had to worry about Deadheads liking my version. Joe Gastwirt did the mastering. His house is a mini-shrine to Jerry; Gold records on the wall, posters, pictures, and he was friends with Jerry. So the test for me was: "Will Joe approve?" Joe said: "Jerry would like this."

(Brian Wilson) It's a good song that can be done in a variety of ways. Structurally it's a doo-wop song and when the Calvanes sang on it, it was obvious. Freddie from the Calvanes was there and guided me through the recording of the vocals. He was very patient and encouraging.
Freddie does the harmony arranging for the Calvanes. I sent him the
Best of the Beach Boys CD in advance, and he did a very jazzy demo. I told him: "It's a tribute to the Beach Boys as much as to LA R & B." 
The Beach Boys grew up in Hawthorne, which is about three miles from where the Calvanes came from. They are from two different worlds. So this song is a way of mixing those two worlds. They all meet in music.
The Calvanes made records in the early 50's for the Doo-Tone label. That was the big west coast doo-wop label who put out EARTH ANGEL by The Penguins and HEAVEN IN PARADISE by Don Julian and the Meadowlarks. The original Calvanes never broke up; they have always done gigs over the years, so they are the real deal.

They did an album backing Big Sandy, sang on a Deke Dickerson CD, and had their own HighTone album. I wish I knew them at the time they recorded their HighTone album (In Harmony, 2001. I would have loved to have produced them.

(Bonus song) BOSS --
(The Rumblers)  I wanted to do the instrumental BOSS all along because it was from Downey. I expected to put it on as a hidden track where, after 20 seconds of blank space, BOSS would come on - then cooler heads prevailed. So it's available as a bonus disc with Yep Roc pre-orders of the album. I kinda wish I would have put the bonus songs on the record. Bill Bateman and Gregory Boaz played on them.
The Rumblers released a ton of 45s in the early 60's. BOSS was a regional hit in '61 on the Downey label, like PIPELINE from the Chantays. They got muffed in with Surf Music, but they considered themselves like Link Wray, an instrumental R & B band.
At some point I'd like to put out a CD and maybe make it available at gigs with stuff like that. I have a Part 2 to the song HIGHWAY 61 that I did last year. It's just me and Greg (Leisz) going to town for 7 minutes. (Part 1 came out on the UNCUT magazine sampler.) I'd like to include other tracks from tributes and compilations.

(Bonus song) Mr Moto --
(The Bel Airs) That was a hit in California. It's been a favorite of mine to play at Blasters sound checks. Paul Johnson from the Bel Airs still performs. He contacted me recently to correct me that the Bel Airs were actually from Redondo Beach and not San Diego. I did the Freddie King version - just cutting loose. ~ AM