DAVE ALVIN AND JIMMIE DALE GILMORE
Downey To Lubbock Hugely impressive link-up of American past masters
Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore first met while gigging with Tom Russell nearly 30 years ago, since when they’ve been on buddy-buddy terms. But the notion of recording together only occurred to them once they’d undertaken a joint tour of the US last year. The result of their labours is the invigorating Downey To Lubbock, a record that speaks to both a lifetime of shared experience and the music that inspired them in the first place. Reared in the Californian suburb of Downey, Alvin’s love of roots-rock saw him move through The Blasters, X and The Knitters, prior to going solo in the late-’80s. The Lubbock-reared Gilmore, by contrast, had been a charter member of The Flatliners (alongside Butch Hancock and Joe Ely) before shifting to Austin and striking out alone around the same time. Their careers had actually intersected much earlier at LA folkspot The Ash Grove, where Gilmore heard Lightnin’ Hopkins do “Buddy Brown’s Blues”. One of 10 covers here, in full electric throttle with yammering piano, the song is an example of the duo’s love of old-school blues and toxic rock’n’roll, with a little R&B on the side. They bring all three to a head on the irrepressible title track, which finds them swapping verses while setting out their own mythology. “I’ve got a loud Stratocaster that can blow any roadhouse down,” sings Alvin, his voice rich and sonorous; “I’m an old Flatlander…West Texas wind blows through my veins,” counters Gilmore, his tones as wizened as those of Willie Nelson.
The album’s other original is more sober, Alvin imagining a meeting between two icons of the old frontier on “Billy The Kid And Geronimo”. Both are wanted men for different reasons, guided by separate moral codes, but, as Geronimo admits with some bitterness, reconciled to the same end. Nestled among the inventive variants of Steve Young, Woody Guthrie and more, it augurs well for the follow-up effort that Alvin has already hinted at.