Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven

Dave Alvin
Eleven Eleven

June 21, 2011
Yep Roc Records

“A lot happens on Eleven Eleven — all of it good.”Mojo

“Dave Alvin’s latest album may be his best yet, its tales of the flipside of the American Dream set to gritty blues riffs that speak of long months on the road. “The Independent UK

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Eleven Eleven, described as the “King of California’s” most driving, electric blues and rock oriented album since 2004’s critically acclaimed Ashgrove, includes 11-tracks, for the first time in his career, written and recorded on the road and during breaks while on tour. The album features a host musicians Alvin had not recorded with since his days in The Blasters, and for the first time ever, sings on record with his brother Phil, the lead singer of The Blasters.

While the backing cast varies with different musicians at sessions separated by weeks of time, the one constant is Alvin’s assured guitar-playing. Whether it’s finger-picking on an acoustic against an accordion on “No Worries Mija” or blazing riffs on electric over a Bo Diddley beat on “Run Conejo Run,” Eleven Eleven casts a consistent gritty, bluesy feel from start to finish. The result is an album with songs rich in vivid stories, taking listeners on a bounty hunt in “Murrietta’s Head,” a tawdry scene of seduction in “Dirty Nightgown” and a true crime recollection in “Johnny Ace is Dead.”  Dave’s guitar work punctuates each tale, reinforcing moments of urgency, remorse and reflection.

“The songs on Eleven Eleven are all about life, love, death, loss, money, justice, labor, faith, doubt, family and friendship. The usual stuff,” said Alvin. “Mortality has been an issue on my mind ever since Ashgrove. Since finishing that album, I lost some great friends – Chris Gaffney, Amy Farris and Buddy Blue of the Beat Farmers. That weighed on me.”

The album reunites Dave with pianist Gene Taylor, whose barrelhouse blues sound has not been heard on an Alvin project since the final Blasters album, 1985’s “Hard Line,” and features three duets: brother Phil Alvin and Dave on the simmering blues “What’s Up With Your Brother”; Dave and Christy McWilson from the Guilty Women on the gentle country number “Manzanita” and the whimsical song, “Two Lucky Bums,” the final recording of Dave and his best friend, the late Chris Gaffney. The rest of the material, rich in stories that stretch from R&B royalty to labor history to Harlan County in Kentucky, was written over the course of seven months.

Combining elements of blues, folk, R+B, rockabilly, Bakersfield country and garage rock and roll with lyrical inspiration from local writers and poets like Raymond Chandler, Gerald Locklin and Charles Bukowski, Alvin has mixed his varied musical and literary influences into his own unique, updated version of traditional American music. “My songs are just like California,” says Alvin. “A big, messy melting pot.”

A fourth generation Californian, Dave Alvin, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and self-described “barroom guitarist,” is widely considered to be one of the pivotal founders of the current Americana music scene. Since forming the highly influential roots rock/R+B band The Blasters, and throughout his long and critically acclaimed solo career, his 30 years of recordings and live performances move through loud, aggressive rock and roll to contemplative acoustic storytelling. His songs have been recorded by a who’s who of contemporary roots artists from Los Lobos, Little Milton and Joe Ely to Dwight Yoakam, James McMurtry and X; while they have also been featured in many movies and television shows including The Sopranos, True Blood, The Wire, Justified, Six Feet Under, Crybaby, Miss Congeniality and From Dusk To Dawn.

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