1994 King of California press release
King of California is my 3rd solo album for HighTone, and it's a bit different from Museum of Heart (93) and Blue Boulevard (91), my previous releases on the label. For one thing, I stripped down the instrumentation. In addition to some new original songs, I've included a few covers, and some songs I previously recorded solo, or with my first band, the Blasters.
Current trends and fads aside, I've wanted to do a "quieter" collection of old, new, borrowed and blue songs for some time. It can be difficult trying to please the people who want to hear sweaty, electric rock 'n' roll, as well as the fans who are more interested in contemplating the lyrics. I think King of California is mainly for the latter group.
A lot of the shows I've done while touring these past few years have been solo acoustic, or with Greg Leisz as fellow traveler/accompanist. I noticed my vocals changing, arrangements changing, sometimes even the meaning of songs changed. I wanted to document that change on this record. I also wanted to re-cut songs like "Fourth of July" from my first solo album Romeo's Escape, because, to be perfectly honest, I can sing 'em better now. I chose a couple of more obscure Blasters songs to record ("Bus Station," "Barn Burning") because these songs mean as much to me as the better-known ones.
I've always been attracted to story-songs and on the title track, "King of California," I tell the story of a gold rush era dreamer who comes west looking for the promised land. From gold rush times through the golden age of Hollywood up to today, California has been perceived as a place where dreams come true but it's also the end of the continent, the end of the road for dreamers. A lot of the songs on King of California have to do with people realizing their dreams may not come true and trying to figure out just where to go from there.
I rarely cover other people's material but songs like Tom Russell's "Blue Wing" and Alex Moore's "East Texas Blues" easily fit the mood and themes of my songs; losers praying to win and people trying to survive day to day while keeping their hearts intact.
Greg Leisz, who you may know from his work with k.d. lang, Matthew Sweet, Rosie Flores and countless others, applied his musical genius and, most importantly, his endless patience to producing this record. I hope you like it. -- Dave Alvin, May 1994