At the delightfully-named Colorado venue The Soiled Dove, two of roots-rock’s most revered artists delivered the goods.
BY TIM HINELY
This venue, one I had not been to before, was most excellent (also being fairly close to my house was a big plus too)! It’s in the basement of a local restaurant/bar chain called The Tavern here in Denver. Not where I would expect Dave Alvin to be playing (the restaurant is a bit on the yuppie side) but The Soiled Dove does seem to book a lot of Americana acts, so there you go.
Glad I got there early enough to catch at least part of Big Sandy’s set. This Southern California institution has been charming crowds for years. It had been at least a decade, maybe more, since the last time I saw him/them. They did not disappoint. The band is sort of a mix ‘tween country, folk, swing, rockabilly and a touch of surf as well. They have a stand-up bassist, a powerhouse drummer and a hot-shit lead guitarist. Up front is Mr. Sandy himself, dressed to the nines in a suit, strummin’ the acoustic guitar and crooning like he’s the Latino Frank Sinatra. The band puts on a helluva show and if you have never seen them and have an opportunity, by all means do not blow it.
Other than the one Blasters reunion gig I caught in the early 2000’s in Portland I had never seen Mr. Dave Alvin before. He has a boatload of solo records out and this tour was with his band the Guilty Men (though the drummer was a female). The crowd was packed, anxious and ready (and ranged from folks in their early twenties to some couple I saw who looked like they were in their seventies). The bassist looked a bit like Ronnie Dawson (RIP), and the lead guitarist, who had pedals a plenty, coulda been Willie Nelson’s son (the drummer? She was cute as a button).
Speaking of dressed to the nines, there was Mr. Alvin. These days never without his bandana round his neck or his cowboy hat. He played a bunch of tunes from his latest record Eleven Eleven (released in 2011 on Yep Roc) and told a buncha neat stories in between songs. Opening with the terrific “Harlan County Line” and then launching into stories like the story about Johnny Ace (“Johnny Ace is Dead”), or the song about his father, originally from Indiana (“Gary, Indiana 1959”) or the one about his recently departed friend (“Black Rose of Texas”) or the one about his brother, Phil (singer for The Blasters, “What’s Up with Your Brother”). He had a million of them, all worth hearing. Alvin is a musician’s musician and a true performer as well and the band was spot on and definitely gave this audience its money’s worth. The welcome mat is always out in Denver for you, Dave. Come back soon!
(Photos courtesy the artists’ Facebook pages)