For several weeks, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s new album, Downey to Lubbock (Yep Roc), has sat at the top of Amazon’s Americana/Alt-Country new releases. With fans of the Flatlander and the King of California eagerly awaiting the album’s release, the question is, will it satisfy their anticipation? The answer is yes.
Alvin and Gilmore might look like an unlikely pairing, Alvin a self-proclaimed “wild blues blaster” and Gilmore a country artist. Those who were fortunate enough to see them on tour together last year, however, know they work well together. While the styles in their individual work differ, they share similar influences, including time spent at L.A.’s Ash Grove, where they witnessed blues legends like Lightning Hopkins and Brownie McGhee, and the album reflects their shared roots. Gilmore’s high, nasal voice contrasts with Alvin’s, which is deep and low. They take turns singing lead vocals and providing harmony, and and a few tracks are duets. Gilmore’s naturally quieter, more mellow acoustic guitar compliments Alvin’s louder, rowdier electric.
The album has an eclectic selection of songs. Alvin and Gilmore each take a turn a singing the blues on songs by Will Shade and Lightning Hopkins, respectively. Each sings folk – Alvin on John Stewart’s “July, You’re a Woman,” and Gilmore on Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee.” The latter songs packs a special punch in our current climate. Not familiar with the song, I at first thought it was an original song about current politics. There’s outlaw country here, the late Steve Young’s “Silverlake,” sung by Gilmore, and Alvin sings on a gorgeous cover of his late friend Chris Gaffney’s “The Gardens.” There’s ’60s pop, too, and New Orleans R&B.
The two original songs, “Downey to Lubbock” and “Billy the Kid and Geronimo,” are duets. While this album takes listeners on a great journey through roots, I would’ve liked to see more original songs. I really enjoy Dave Alvin’s voice, and I would’ve liked to hear him sing on a few more tracks. Still, these are minor quibbles about a record I really enjoyed, and I’m really really looking forward to catching these two on tour.
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Credits: David J. Carpenter (Bass), Skip Edwards (Organ), Brad Fordham (Bass), Nick Forster (Slide Guitar), Colin Gilmore (Harmony Vocal), Don Heffington (Drums, Percussion), Lisa Pankratz (Drums), Van Dyke Parks (Accordion), Jeff Turmes (Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone), Cindy Wasserman (Harmony Vocals)