Dave Alvin began examining the quieter side of his musical personality in earnest on his 1994 disc, King of California, and subsequent albums Blackjack David and Public Domain: Songs from the Wild Land followed in a similar path, leaving some fans to wonder when or if Alvin was ever going to crank up the amps in the recording studio again. Well, the news on Ashgrove, Alvin's first album for the Yep Roc label, is that Dave is rockin' again...though just a little bit. Ashgrove (named after the famed L.A. nightspot where Alvin saw legendary bluesmen play when the was a teenager) finds Alvin digging into the blues, and while Dave's blues don't kick like, say, Jon Spencer these days, this is still several steps closer to the sound and feel of his early solo work such as Romeo's Escape and Blue Blvd. The lean but potent blues undertow of "Ashgrove" and the smoky slow burn of "Black Sky" offer subtle but genuine muscle and punch, and the sinuous "Out of Control" and "Black Haired Girl" prove that Alvin's tougher side has not abandoned him. At the same time, Alvin hasn't abandoned the more contemplative side of his nature, either, and as a songwriter he's continued to mature. "Everett Ruess" and "The Man in the Bed" are two deeply moving but very different portraits of men pondering their lives near the end of their journeys through this world, and "Nine Volt Heart" is a witty but powerful testament to what music can mean in someone's life. Overall, the quieter material makes up the bulk of Ashgrove's playing time, but the handful of blues-based tunes on board give the set a texture that's cool and sharp, and the result resides in a satisfying middle ground that ought to please fans on both side of the electric guitar issue.
|Label:||Yep Roc Records|
Performance CreditsDave Alvin Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Chris Gaffney Background Vocals,Vocal Harmony
Bob Glaub Electric Bass,Bass Guitar
Don Heffington Percussion,Drums
Greg Leisz Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Steel Guitar,Background Vocals,Slide Guitar,Vocal Harmony
David Piltch Double Bass,Acoustic Bass
Patrick Warren Keyboards
Technical CreditsChris Gaffney Spiritual Advisor
Tom Russell Composer
Dave Alvin Composer
David Hidalgo Composer
Rod Hodges Composer
Greg Leisz Audio Production
Mark Linett Engineer
Louie Pérez Composer
Shannon McNally Composer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ashgrove based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
I believe every word Dave Alvin sings! How can you not? The man means what he says. He's clearly got the passion and conviction needed to pull of this wonderful batch of new tunes, which makes up 2004's Ashgrove. And that passion is never esoteric or condescending. Rather, it's visceral and honestly emotive, but never comes close to maudlin or embarrassing. The dichotomy on Ashgrove is revved up electric blues/rock (coming closer to rock) and mellower, mostly acoustic singer/songwriter fare. Both work extremely well. Electrified tunes like "Ashgrove", "Black Sky", and "Out Of Control" fit perfectly alongside gorgeous, poignant numbers like "Rio Grande", "The Man In The Bed", and "Everett Ruess". All and all, a wonderfully rootsy recording--and, given the paucity of homemade music these days, an important one as well. Alvin's legions of fans will surely be satisfied with this release.
Hearing Mr. Alvin on "The Ride" by Los Lobos, I had to search out more of his work. I started with "Ashgrove" because it contained "Somewhere in Time". Believe it or not, this version is better than the one on "The Ride". Where have I been? The rest of the CD is just as great.