West of the West

West of the West

by Dave Alvin
     
 

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Dave Alvin is a California born-and-bred songwriter who has built a career out of creating tunes which brilliantly reflect the cultural melting pot of his home state as he fuses blues, rockabilly, folk, country, jazz and R&B influences with the passion of an archivist and the fire of a born rock & roller. Alvin is a better songwriter and guitarist than a singer, but

Overview

Dave Alvin is a California born-and-bred songwriter who has built a career out of creating tunes which brilliantly reflect the cultural melting pot of his home state as he fuses blues, rockabilly, folk, country, jazz and R&B influences with the passion of an archivist and the fire of a born rock & roller. Alvin is a better songwriter and guitarist than a singer, but he's opted to play the role of interpreter on his 2006 album West of the West, in which he pays homage to a dozen other tunesmiths from the Golden State while tossing in one of his own compositions for good measure. Beyond the fact they're all the same state, one might wonder just what it is that Tom Waits, John Fogerty, and Brian Wilson (among others) are supposed to have in common, though in their own way each writer here offers a thumbnail sketch of one side of California. Merle Haggard's "Kern River" is a compassionate but tough-as-nails memoir of life in the West Coast labor camps, Jackson Browne's "Redneck Friend" is a witty portrait of the decadence and ennui of El Lay in the '70s, Wilson's "Surfer Girl" is a man-child's daydream of the beach as a place where summer vacation never ends and true love is always rewarded, and the contributions from Fogerty, Kate Wolf, and Los Lobos all examine the stakes of life at the bottom of the ladder in a culture built on dreams. Thematically this is heady stuff, but Alvin has the sense not to force the issues too hard and he goes for a tough but easygoing blues groove on most of these 13 cuts, wringing an understated passion out of even the least likely material. While in many respects Alvin is still best described as a songwriter who sings, he knows how to tell a story, and he's picked some great ones for this album. Alvin understands the drama of "Sonora's Death Row" just as well as the yearning of "Surfer Girl," and his performances are absorbing from front to back. It's hard not to wish Alvin had a whole album of new songs to offer (his "Between the Cracks" stands tall among some very distinguished company here), but West of the West finds him honoring a stellar pantheon of California songwriters while showing that he can stand side by side with them on a good day.

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post - Pamela Winters
The songs offer fine storytelling.... [Alvin's] sonorous voice, his flame-edged electric licks, the work of an array of impressive sidemen, and the production of fellow guitar master Greg Leisz lend distinction to every track.
Los Angeles Daily News - Bob Strauss
It's the sonic equivalent of an overcast day statewide, filled with rare atmospheric possibilities.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/30/2006
Label:
Yep Roc Records
UPC:
0634457211827
catalogNumber:
2118
Rank:
86529

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Dave Alvin   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals,national steel guitar
Chris Gaffney   Vocal Harmony
Joe Terry   Organ
Danny Barnes   Banjo
Bob Glaub   Bass
Don Heffington   Percussion,Drums
Greg Leisz   Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Pedal Steel Guitar,Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar,Vocal Harmony,Guitar (Baritone)
Christy McWilson   Vocals
David Witham   Organ
Kevin Carroll   Vocal Harmony
Gregory Boaz   Bass,Acoustic Bass
Jesus "El Gordo" Cuevas   Accordion
Herman Pruitt   Vocal Harmony
Gabe Witcher   Violin
Bobby Lloyd Hicks   Drums
Jack Rudy   Harmonica
Chris Montez Miller   Electric Guitar,Slide Guitar
James Corbitt   Vocal Harmony

Technical Credits

Merle Haggard   Composer
Tom Russell   Composer
John Stewart   Composer
Dave Alvin   Arranger,Composer,Liner Notes
Jackson Browne   Composer
John Fogerty   Composer
Jerry Garcia   Composer
Tom Waits   Composer
Brian Wilson   Composer
Robert Hunter   Composer
Richard Berry   Composer
Jim Ringer   Composer
Bill Dashiell   Engineer
David Hidalgo   Composer
Greg Leisz   Arranger,Producer,Audio Production
Louie Pérez   Composer
Craig Adams   Engineer

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