Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore had known each other for decades, but it wasn't until last year that they toured together in a guitar pull setting. What started as a small Texas tour mushroomed into points east and west and eventually the release earlier this month of their blues-based disc, "Downey to Lubbock."
And now we have the excellent fortune of seeing the pair back out on the road with Alvin's usual highly muscular backing hand, The Guilty Ones.
Alvin and Gilmore had a chance to shine on their own material - sometimes with vocal help from the other taking a stanza - while, of course, playing a heavy dose of the new disc. The title track started off the night with a rocking, bracing version of the song.
From there, it was Gilmore offering a most pleasant reading of "Tonight, I Think I'm Gonna Go Down," a song from his other band The Flatlanders, and Alvin following with a song based on a true story, "Johnny Ace is Dead."
The "Downey to Lubbock" material tended to be far heavier, louder and bluesier than the other songs. Yet again, Alvin was simply a superb guitarist, stinging, steely and with a lot of heart. That also meant not overplaying or being showy. Gilmore blew harp on a number of songs, something he has not done for four decades, according to Alvin. They have very different vocal styles with Gilmore a bit reedy. Sometimes his vocals tended to get a bit lost amidst the music.
The Guilty Ones are one superb band starting with the muscular, animated, bundle of joy on drums Lisa Pankratz along with guitarist Chris Miller, who was afforded a few leads and bassist Brad Fordham.
Both principals are real good storytellers, sometimes at the expense of the other in a jocular way. The best was a telling of how the late Steve Young told Gilmore in the mid-'80s he had written the perfect song for him, "Silverlake." Gilmore recorded it, but wasn't satisfied and never released it. Fast forward five years, and lo and behold, Alvin received the same pitch. Gilmore had the last word saying, Young wrote it for Alvin, "but he wanted me to sing it."
The best story song-wise may well have been Woody Guthrie's "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)." Written about 70 years ago, the song was about a plane crash that killed 28 migrants being sent back to Mexico from the U.S. Once again, a Guthrie song resonated in modern times.
That would not be the only politically-based song of the evening as "Downey to Lubbock" also features the plea for peace chestnut "Get Together" with a few words changed. In these troubled times, the song resonated loudly.
On paper, the combo of Gilmore and Alvin may not have seemed obvious. After seeing them, one would have wanted them to get together a lot sooner.
Los Angeles-based duo Dead Rock West presented a set of a variety of tempos and styles within the Americana framework, including a few Everly Brothers songs ("Cathy's Clown" and "(Why Am I) Chained to a Memory").
Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen took turns on lead vocals, often complementing the other. At times, one could easily have imagined X singing some of these songs, which ought not be a surprise given that John Doe produced their recent "More Love." Not a bad comparison.