Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore to Release a new Album June 1

Dave Alvin update: Jimmie Dale and I have been doing some acoustic duo gigs together the past few years. It was early on, that we thought: "This is really good and we should record this." I thought originally an album would be just acoustic recordings, then I decided that it has to have bass and drums. It built up from there and now there's electric guitar on the songs. We did three separate sessions in L.A. Lisa and Brad (from the Guilty Ones) are on four songs. Also, Don Heffington played drums with David Carpenter on bass, who's from Dead Rock West. Van Dyke Parks played accordion on 4 songs and Nick Forster who hosts the eTown radio show in Boulder, CO, played some mandolin. Cindy Wasserman, also from Dead Rock West, sings harmonies on some songs. I called Skip Edwards, who played some blues and gospel piano. All three sessions were so much fun.

I hate to use the word, but the record happened all very 'organically.' It's very much folk / blues - which is the style that Jimmie Dale started with. It's not that different a record to me, but it is to Jimmie. I got him to play harmonica, which he hasn't done in years. There are more Jimmie Dale songs on here than mine -  I kind of enjoyed just being the guitar player. If I can pat myself on the back, I think there's some really good guitar playing on there. All the guitars are me, except for some Jimmie Dale acoustic.

It's mainly covers. We co-wrote the title track DOWNEY TO LUBBOCK. I brought in an original song of mine called BILLY THE KID AND GERONIMO, because Jimmie has some Native-American in him. I thought it would be perfect for us. There are blues covers of Lightnin' Hopkins, The Memphis Jug Band, and a Brownie McGhee song that we re-wrote the verses to make them more applicable to us. We did Gaffney's THE GARDENS and then a Steve Young song that Jimmie and I both loved. It's a song that Steve told Jimmie 20 years ago that he should sing. Steve also told me it was a song he wrote for me (laughs). I did a John Stewart song and a cover of the Youngblood's song GET TOGETHER. It'll be out June 1 and we'll be touring all year backed by the Guilty Ones. --AM

     In the early fall of 2017, the Blasters received an invitation to join Reverend Horton Heat's December tour of the East coast, dubbed 'The Holiday Hayride.' We had played shows with the Rev (aka Jim Heath) before, most recently at Pershing Square in downtown L.A., and he counted the Blasters among his major early influences, so it was a natural match-up. As an extra draw, the bill was co-headlined by country guitar legend Junior Brown and featured SoCal rockabilly favorite Big Sandy, the latter backed by the Rev himself.
     The tour kicked off on December 1 at the Masquerade, a large club in downtown Atlanta, GA. The format set the pattern for the rest of the tour, with the Blasters doing a 45-minute opening set followed by an hour from Junior and the Rev closing, incorporating a 30-minute set by Big Sandy into his two-hour show. At half the usual length, our set felt like a sprint. We all came off stage wet and winded, but it was a refreshing change and an opportunity to play in front of an expanded crowd.
     Another plus was the opportunity to watch Junior Brown and the Rev up close. Junior is one of the most accomplished and eclectic musicians in American music; his unique "Guit-Steel" - a double-neck instrument combining a six-string guitar and lap steel - lends a distinctive flavor to everything he plays. After starting his set with his classic country laments BROKE DOWN SOUTH OF DALLAS and MY WIFE THINKS YOU'RE DEAD, anything could happen: and he would take off in directions ranging from up-tempo country swing to Albert King-inspired

     Tom added his perspective on the camaraderie that developed as the tour progressed: "I think, as I recall, that all happened naturally. Back then, unlike now, musicians hung out a lot more and jammed and swapped songs in motel rooms. That world is sort of gone. It seemed to die with people like Guy Clark," Tom said. "We seem to be islands now. We bump into each other from time to time. (We're) troubadours on the road."
     Dave Alvin recalls: "Chris Smither is so self-contained. All his guitar parts are so perfectly worked out because he is used to playing unaccompanied. It was very intimidating to follow Chris when we were all playing our own songs - just because he is just so friggin' good."
      Chris recalled that the performers adjusted to each other quickly. "As I remember, there was no rehearsal at all, but things came together pretty well right from the get-go, and got better as the tour progressed," he said. "The more familiar we got with the material, the more adventurous we would get."
      That adventurous spirit was demonstrated in a train medley that featured all four singers and served as the finale for each show. The medley began with THE WABASH CANNONBALL and, as the tour progressed, grew to include Chuck Berry's THE PROMISED LAND, Lead Belly's ROCK ISLAND LINE, plus WRECK OF THE OLD 97 and Woody Guthrie's GRAND COULEE DAM.
     After the tour, the performers continued to collaborate. Both Dave and Tom sang on Ramblin' Jack's 1999 album
The Long Ride, and contributed liner notes. Dave and Chris performed together on the Avalon Blues tour in 2003 and have done occasional shows together, as have Dave and Tom.
     Aiyana Elliott, daughter of Ramblin' Jack, filmed part of the tour at the Bottom Line in New York City, and included excerpts in
The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack, her 2000 documentary that won four awards at film festivals across the United States.
     Mark Pucci, who saw the Bottom Line show, recalls it was a special evening.  "I remember it was a wonderful night at the Bottom Line, with a packed house loving every minute of it."
     Twenty years later, Chris offered a memory of the tour that still sticks in his mind: "One of my most vivid memories is Jack Elliott being surprised that we didn't want to go out partying after every show. As long as he'd been in the business, he'd never done a tour that was night after night like that one. He learned pretty quickly, though."
     The Monsters of Folk has proved to be a one-time affair, but the memories remain for the performers and those who were in attendance. Changing times in the music business have prevented a sequel, according to Chris and Tom.  Chris: "The subject has come up from time to time, but never progressed past that point. It's the sort of thing that requires someone outside of the group to take charge and organize."

     Tom: "It's a lot harder to pull off now without the sponsorship of a record label. HighTone and Larry Sloven were very supportive of that tour, and that makes a difference. There's so many expenses it would be hard to do now. I'm heading more and more towards solo concerts."       --AM