Archive for the Dave Alvin Category

Tennessee Shines October Edition: Dave Alvin, Sara Watkins, Tyler Ramsey, & Samantha Crain

Posted in Dave Alvin, Samantha Crain, Sara Watkins, Tennessee Shines, Tyler Ramsey on October 27, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

It’s that time once again…

Wednesday night at 7:00 (Eastern), WDVX and will broadcast this month’s edition of Tennessee Shines live from the Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. This month’s lineup is a pretty solid one featuring Americana stalwart Dave Alvin, former Nickel Creek fiddler Sara Watkins, Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey, and up and coming Oklahoma songwriter Samantha Crain.

Obviously, the biggest name on this month’s bill is Dave Alvin, who will be appearing with a few members of his backing band, The Guilty Women. Dave has been around since the early 1980s when he fronted the pioneering roots-rock outfit The Blasters along with his brother Phil. For the last several years though Dave has become a highly respected solo artist known for his heartfelt songwriting and monstrous talent on the guitar.

I saw Dave play a show at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville a few years ago. Even as I felt my eardrums exploding due to sheer volume, I could not bring myself to step away from the front of the stage during his set. I had to be right up front so I wouldn’t miss a note. His playing is that captivating. Wednesday night, Dave will be playing selections from his latest project Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women.

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women: Marie Marie (Buy Album)

Next, we move on to former Nickel Creek (it still pains me to write “former” in front of “Nickel Creek”) fiddler Sara Watkins. Sara is best known for her time with Nickel Creek but has also kept busy over the years with several side projects such as The Mutual Admiration Society, The Watkins Family Band, and her newest project The Works Progress Administration (with Sean Watkins, Luke Bulla, Glen Phillips, & others). Earlier this year, Sara Released her first solo project, a self-titled album on Nonesuch Records.

Sara never wrote as many songs as the other members of Nickel Creek (Sean Watkins & Chris Thile), which is probably why it took her this long to release her first solo record. Even though she did pen a few of the songs on this album herself, her strength (not unlike fellow fiddle playing songbird Alison Krauss) has always been finding the right song, and interpreting it to make it her own. A perfect example is her reading of John Hartford’s “Long Hot Summer Days.”

Sara Watkins: Long Hot Summer Days (Buy Album)

That brings us to Tyler Ramsey, a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Asheville, NC. Tyler made a name for himself in the musician laden town of Asheville by crafting his own intricate style of finger picked guitar. He marries his gentle melodies to dreamy vocals and arrangements to stirring effect. When he isn’t touring and recording on his own, Tyler is also a member of indie rock buzz act The Band of Horses. You can witness Tyler’s guitar skills on the title track to his solo album A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea.

Tyler Ramsey: A Long Dream (Buy Album)

Finally, we come to the artist I might be the most excited to hear on Wednesday night, Samantha Crain. I first became familiar with Samantha’s music by reading about her in several posts over at Payton’s site, This Mornin’ I Am Born Again. When I saw her debut full-length album Songs in the Night sitting in my program director’s office at WDVX, I immediately grabbed it, gave it a listen, and started playing it on the air.

To me, her music inhabits the same sonic territories as Brandi Carlile and Sarah Borges. She brings folk-flavored rock with a dangerous edge and just enough pop hooks to become ingrained in your brain. Her backing band, The Midnight Shivers, is responsible for helping to shape and hone that edge in her sound. They deserve a mention here even though they won’t be with Samantha on Wednesday night. Even without the band, I’ll be very excited to hear some of these songs stripped bare on their own. Here’s one (with the band) from Songs in the Night.
Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers: Devil’s in Boston (Buy Album)
As a special bonus… Samantha Crain will also be dropping by the WDVX studios before the show Wednesday night to chat with me about her album and her sound. Check it out around 5:30 (Eastern). You can listen at… and feel free to leave any questions you may have for Samantha in the comments.
Tennessee Shines will air live on WDVX and Wednesday night at 7:00.

Happy 4th

Posted in Dave Alvin on July 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Be safe and have fun

Dave Alvin: Fourth of July (Buy Album)

Friday Top 5: Dave Alvin

Posted in Dave Alvin, The Knitters, Top 5 on November 7, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dave Alvin perform live twice over the past few years.

The first time was at the 2004 Americana Music Conference shortly after the release of his 2004 album Ashgrove. His performance came a little later in the night, and by that time the crowd had thinned out a bit at The Mercy Lounge. I was able to score a spot near the front of the stage right next to one of the big stacks of speakers.

Big mistake.

Don’t get me wrong… The show was great. Dave and his band shredded through the highlights from the new album and even threw in a few favorites from his days with The Blasters, the roots rock band he started with his brother Phil back in the late 70’s. It was as good of a performance as I saw that weekend. And I saw a lot that weekend.

The problem came the next morning when I woke up in my hotel room with a muffled ringing still sounding in my ears. If Dave Alvin isn’t the best guitar player I’ve ever seen (and he’s certainly in the discussion), he was certainly the loudest and most powerful. Fortunately, the ringing stopped later that day, and my hearing returned to normal. When I caught Dave playing with The Knitters at the Mercy Lounge as part of the 2005 conference, I made sure to hang back a bit in the crowd far away from any Marshall stacks.

We honor Dave Alvin in the Top 5 today in part because he celebrates a birthday next week, and in part because his music has been on my mind a bit this week with the recent release of Dave Alvin: The Best of the Hightone Years CD. Dave is also very hard at work right now organizing a tribute album for his dear friend Chris Gaffney who lost a battle with liver cancer earlier this year. That album is tentatively set for a March 2009 release.

Anyway… here are some of my favorite Dave Alvin tunes.

“Ashgrove” is the title track from Dave’s 2004 album and is one of the main songs responsible for the temporary hearing loss I mentioned earlier. When Dave was growing up in California, he and his brother used to sneak into an old blues club called The Ashgrove to see the blues legends play. This song is a tribute to The Ashgrove, but it’s also a bit of a mission statement for Dave. When he shouts, “I’m gonna play the blues tonight man ’cause that’s what I do,” he sums up an emotion that so many of us feel from time to time. No matter the laundry list of problems that exist in the world or the daily annoyances that can bring a man to his knees… the music is here to take us all away. For Dave Alvin, the music gives him a reason to exist and keep going.

Dave Alvin: Ashgrove (Buy Album)

We’re going to stay in California for our next few songs as well. First is a gentle acoustic number called “King of California,” the title track from Dave’s 1994 album. The next two are slightly livelier numbers from an appearance on Austin City Limits in 1999. The entire performance was released last year on New West Records. “Dry River” doesn’t mention California specifically, but I’ve always envisioned the concrete banked L.A. River when listening to this tune. “Out in California” is simply a chance for Dave to flex his guitar muscle a bit while pining over the girl he left behind in his home state.

Dave Alvin: King of California (Buy Album)
Dave Alvin: Dry River (Buy Album)
Dave Alvin: Out in California (Buy Album)

We move to Texas for the final track, “Abilene” from 1998’s Blackjack David. The moral of this story is that you should know what you’re running into before you run away from where you are. Your heart breaks for the girl who never seems to run to the right place.

Dave Alvin: Abilene (Buy Album)

Bonus Track: Earlier, I briefly mentioned a band called The Knitters. The Knitters is a country side project made up of the members of California punk band X with Dave Alvin on lead guitar. Dave doesn’t sing much in this setting, those duties are handled by X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Here is their version of Dave Alvin’s “Dry River.”

The Knitters: Dry River (Buy Album)

Americana Music Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award for an Executive

Posted in Americana Music Awards, Austin City Limits, Dave Alvin, Steve Earle on August 23, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

This week, we’ve been focusing on the Lifetime Achievement Award winners at this year’s Americana Music Honors & Awards. The honors will be handed out less than a month from now at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award for an Executive goes to Terry Lickonia from the long-running television series Austin City Limits. Lickonia took over ACL in 1978 and has produced more than 800 episodes of the show in the last thirty years. Under Lickonia’s guidance, ACL became the only television program to ever be honored with the National Medal Arts.

For those who don’t know, Austin City Limits is television’s longest running live concert program and, in my house, is must see viewing on Saturday nights. Since I’ve started watching regularly over the past few years, ACL has brought a wide variety of artists into my living room. Nickel Creek, Robert Randolph, My Morning Jacket, Tift Merritt, Patty Griffin, Rilo Kiley, Alejandro Escovedo, and R.E.M. just to name a few. Some were old favorites I’ve seen again and again. Others were artists new to the scene or just new to me.

A few years ago, Austin City Limits and New West Records began releasing a series of CDs and DVD from the ACL archives. You can find out more about them at

Here are a couple of tracks from the live Austin City Limits CD series.

Steve Earle: Guitar Town (Buy Album)
Dave Alvin: Dry River (Buy Album)