Wednesday, June 28, 2006

This is my Country

Generally speaking I dislike country music. I like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and the 'old school', but most contemporary country music I find to be ridiculous,uninteresting and often, poorly written and repetitive. Dixie Chicks and that red-necked woman? Spare me.

Recently though, I heard some music by a guy named Dave Alvin, and it struck a chord. More country flavored than anything else, Alvin has a rich, smoky voice that just draws you in, and the music has strong blues overtones. When I realized that Alvin was a member of the great roots-rock band The Blasters, it all came full circle. His new album West of the West is a collection of songs written by California artists, such as Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson and Jerry Garcia. He also did a cover of Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited on a recent compilation album that just smolders. I've since purchased the new album (RIAA take note: it was an audioblog that turned me on to Alvin). Alvin's vocal style may be an acquired taste, but it's worth sampling. The poignant version of Surfer Girl on this album is reason alone to pick it up.

Listen: Loser, by Jerry Garcia, lyrics by Robert Hunter. This song is from Garcia's debut solo album, and be a Grateful Dead concert favorite for years. About a hopelessly addicted gambler, the song suits Alvin to a tee, and Hunter's lyrics are superb. It's impossible not to like this track, even if you're lukewarm to country music and the whole Deadhead thing.

Buy It: Dave Alvin, West Of The West

I do like bluegrass music, usually in small doses. What happens when you combine some talented bluegrass bands and the music of Van Halen? Some pretty enjoyable music, I'd say. Like other good tribute albums, the renditions make you appreciate the original versions all over again, and at times realize just how good some of the songwriting really is. I don't think I need an entire album of bluegrass Van Halen, but that's what eMusic is for.

Listen:Runnin' With The Devil

Buy It: Strumming With The Devil



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