Dave Alvin returns to the Shannon Center, and he’s bringing Chuck Prophet to open the show!
A singer, songwriter, and guitarist with a keen eye for the details of American life and a powerful and passionate performing style, Dave Alvin (The Blasters, X, the Knitters, and more) helped to kick-start the American roots rock scene in the early ’80s with the band the Blasters, and has since gone on to a career as a solo performer, songwriter, producer, and sideman that’s been as well respected as it is eclectic. Born and raised in Downey, California, Dave Alvin and his brother Phil Alvin were avid music fans since childhood, immersing themselves in vintage blues, country, and rockabilly sounds. Their passion led to them founding the Blasters, who played roots-inspired rock & roll with the energy and fire of punk rock, in 1979. With Dave as guitarist and principal songwriter, the Blasters became stars in Los Angeles and earned a devoted fan following internationally after the release of their self-titled 1981 album for Slash. Dave left the Blasters after their 1985 album, Hard Line, and launched his solo career with 1987’s Every Night About This Time. Health problems sidelined Alvin for a spell, but after Dwight Yoakam scored a hit with Alvin’s song “Long White Cadillac,” he returned to action with 1991’s Blue Blvd. He made a compelling acoustic effort with 1994’s King of California, while he doubled down on his interest in traditional folk and rural blues with a pair of critically acclaimed releases, 1998’s Blackjack David and 2000’s Public Domain: Songs from the Wild Land. Through the 2000s, Alvin moved back and forth between electric and acoustic projects, and in 2014 he reunited with his brother Phil for Common Ground: Dave & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy. He documented another memorable collaboration with 2018’s Downey to Lubbock, recorded with Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
“King of California”
Recorded in Los Angeles the day after the historic 1994 Northridge earthquake and produced by Greg Leisz, “King of California” had its genesis in the album’s title track, a readymade folk ballad, written for his mother, in which an aspiring suitor heads west to make his fortune in the wild, still young Golden State. ‘King of California’ is when I decided I would let the song tell me what it sounds like,’ says Alvin. ‘Ever since then, that’s been my rule.’
Featuring acoustic interpretations of some of the finest songs in his catalog, along with new, folk inflected compositions, and notable covers, Dave Alvin found the true measure of his own voice with King of California. ‘It was ironic that for a guy who was known as a loud guitar player and questionable singer, his best seller was an acoustic album,’ says Alvin.
Included are songs written and originally recorded during the ’80s like: ‘Barn Burning’ from American Music (1980), ‘Bus Station’ and ‘Leaving’ from the Blasters’ Non Fiction (1983), ‘Little Honey,’written with X’s John Doe and featured on the Blasters Hard Line (1985), and the ‘Fourth of July,’ which appeared on both X’s See How We Are (1997) and on Romeo’s Escape (1987). ‘Every Night About This Time’ also appeared on the album.
Like the records he made as a member of the Blasters, “King of California” features a variety of covers, including Tom Russell’s ‘Blue Wing,’ Dallas singer pianist Whistlin’ Alex Moore’s ‘West Texas Blues,’ retitled ‘East Texas Blues,’ Memphis Slim’s classic ‘Mother Earth,’ and ‘What Am I Worth,’ a George Jones song, featured here as a duet with the incomparable Syd Straw. The album also includes co writes with Rosie Flores (‘Goodbye Again’) and John Doe (‘Little Honey’).
‘I’m real proud of it twenty five years later,’ Alvin says. ‘The whole process was a revelation, to record with everybody in the studio sitting roughly in a circle. Sitting there on the edge of my chair with an acoustic guitar knowing that if I blow this chord we have to start over. And I could use my voice; when I was recording electric my voice couldn’t lead the band. In this situation I could. That allowed a certain openness and freedom I hadn’t experienced before. And for Greg, this was his baby, his chance to produce me and get my voice right. His calmness in all of this led to the vibe of the record.’
Chuck Prophet hit the road straight out of high school in the ’80s with the psychedelic roots band Green on Red, and he never looked back. In addition to working as a singer/songwriter, guitarist, bandleader, and collaborator with artists as diverse as Cake, Kim Carnes, Solomon Burke, and Alejandro Escovedo, Prophet’s deepening solo catalog of self-produced “sideways” roots rock has steadily become his calling card.
Born in the Southern California suburb of Whittier, the San Francisco-based Prophet made his debut as a solo artist in 1990 with Brother Aldo; one U.K. music paper called its collision of lo-fi and country “as close to the genuine article as a white boy can get.” Developing his style over the course of seven albums, including Balinese Dancer (1993) and Feast of Hearts (1995), Prophet hit his stride with his gritty meditation on suburbia, Homemade Blood (1997), followed by the studio-tweaked and poetic The Hurting Business (1998) and the streetwise epic No Other Love (2002), which sparked the radio hit “Summertime Thing,” while the title track was covered by Heart.
Prophet’s 2004 release Age of Miracles married vintage sounds with state-of-the-art studio technique, while never compromising its raw roots foundation. Released in 2007, Soap and Water barged through rock’s barriers with a helping of swamp rock and hip-hop. Between albums, Kelly Willis and Boz Scaggs were among the many artists who laid down versions of Prophet’s songs, while his guitar tracks showed up on recordings from Warren Zevon, Lucinda Williams, and Jewel. In 2005 and 2006, Prophet rejoined Green on Red as they reunited for a series of shows; one of the concerts was released on the album Valley Fever: Live in Tucson 2005.
Prophet continued to perform as a solo artist and with his band, the Mission Express — featuring his wife, Stephanie Finch, on keyboards and vocals — and released Dreaming Waylon’s Dreams in 2007, following it with a politically themed solo album, Let Freedom Ring, in 2009. The fascinating and ambitious Temple Beautiful, a concept album that tackled a sort of alternative history of Prophet’s adopted San Francisco, arrived early in 2012. In 2014, Prophet returned with the album Night Surfer, which featured instrumental assistance from former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Prairie Prince, drummer with the Tubes. Prophet delivered yet another eclectic and interestingly titled album, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, in 2017.