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Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin
Dave Alvin in 2011
Background information
Born (1955-11-11) November 11, 1955
Origin Downey, California, United States
Genres Americana, Alternative country, roots rock, rockabilly
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter, music producer
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1980–present
Labels Rhino, Yep Roc
Associated acts The Blasters
The Knitters
The Flesh Eaters

David Albert "Dave" Alvin (born November 11, 1955) is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, music producer and poet. He is a former and founding member of the roots rock band the Blasters. Alvin has recorded and performed as a solo artist since the late 1980s, and has been involved in various side projects and collaborations as well. He has had brief stints as a member of the bands X and the Knitters.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Solo 2.1
    • Producer and collaborator 2.2
    • Film 2.3
    • Poetry 2.4
  • The Blasters discography 3
  • The Blasters videography 4
  • X discography 5
  • The Knitters discography 6
  • Dave Alvin discography 7
    • Other contributions 7.1
  • Music used in popular culture 8
  • Writings 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life

Alvin grew up in Downey, California. As teenagers, he and his older brother Phil Alvin attended blues, rockabilly, and country venues and listened to the music of T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, and Lee Allen, among others.[1] Alvin attended Long Beach State University.[2]


In 1979, Alvin and his brother Phil formed the roots rock band the Blasters with fellow Downey residents Bill Bateman and John Bazz.[1][3] Alvin served as the group's lead guitarist and chief songwriter.[3] Despite a growing fan base in the United States and Europe, Alvin left the band in 1986 and became the lead guitarist of the Los Angeles-based alternative rock band, X. He left X in 1987 to work on a solo project after the group recorded their album See How We Are. Alvin became a member of country-folk band the Knitters and appeared on their 1985 album Poor Little Critter on the Road and their 2005 follow-up, The Modern Sounds of The Knitters.[1]

In the early 1980s Alvin, along with fellow Blasters members Bill Bateman and Steve Berlin, performed on several albums by the Los Angeles punk band the Flesh Eaters. Alvin also played with the Gun Club and appeared on two songs from their 1984 album, The Las Vegas Story.[1]


Alvin's first solo album, entitled Romeo's Escape (entitled Every Night About This Time in England) and released in 1987, was well received by critics but didn't fare well in the marketplace. As a result of the album's low sales figures, Alvin lost his recording contract with Columbia records. Alvin then toured with Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana under the name Pleasure Barons and released a live album of their 1993 tour.[1]

In 1989, Dwight Yoakam recorded Alvin's song "Long White Cadillac".[1] Alvin released his second solo album Blue Blvd Hightone Records in 1991. It received positive reviews and moderate sales. After releasing Museum of Heart in 1993, he recorded an album of acoustic music in 1994 called King of California. In 2000, Alvin recorded a collection of traditional folk and blues classics called, Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land, which earned him a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.[1]

Alvin in 2005

In 2011, Alvin released the album Eleven Eleven on Yep Roc Records. The album marked his return to rock roots.[4] Rolling Stone magazine, in a review of the album, called Alvin "an under recognized guitar hero".[4]

In 2014, Dave and Phil Alvin released the album Common Ground, a selection of Big Bill Broonzy covers, as a duo.[5] It was the first studio collaboration by the Alvin brothers since the mid 1980s.[6][7]

Producer and collaborator

Alvin has produced music for Chris Gaffney, Tom Russell, the Derailers, and Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, and collaborated with rockabilly musician Sonny Burgess.[1] He has worked as a studio session musician for Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Little Milton, Katy Moffatt, and Syd Straw.[1]


Alvin appeared in the movies Border Radio and Floundering and on the FX television series Justified in 2011 as well as in Streets of Fire with The Blasters in 1984.[8]


Alvin has published two books of poetry: Any Rough Times Are Now Behind You and Nana, Big Joe & the Fourth of July. His poetry has appeared in Caffeine, the A.K.A. Review, Rattler, Asymptote and Enclitic and in the anthologies: Nude Erections, Hit And Run Poets and Poetry Loves Poetry—An Anthology of Los Angeles Poets.

The Blasters discography

(recordings with Dave Alvin as member)

  • American Music (1980)
  • The Blasters (1981)
  • Over There (1982)
  • Non Fiction (1983)
  • Hard Line (1985)
  • The Blasters Collection (1990)
  • Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings (2002)
  • The Blasters Live – Going Home (2004)

The Blasters videography

X discography

The Knitters discography

  • Poor Little Critter on the Road (1985)
  • The Modern Sounds of the Knitters (2005)

Dave Alvin discography

Year Album Chart Positions
US Country US US Heat US Indie
1987 Romeo's Escape 60 116
1991 Blue Blvd
1993 Museum of Heart
1994 King of California
1996 Interstate City
1998 Blackjack David
2000 Public Domain
2002 Out in California
Outtakes in California
2004 Ashgrove 38
2005 The Great American Music Galaxy
2006 West of the West 24 35
2007 Live from Austin, TX: Austin City Limits
2009 Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women
2011 Eleven Eleven 159 4 31
2014 Common Ground: Dave & Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy (with Phil Alvin) 144 3 25

Other contributions

  • Eklektikos Live (2005) – "Blackjack David"
  • Highway 61 Revisited Revisited, UNCUT (2005) – "Highway 61 Revisited"
  • The Lone Ranger: Wanted (2013) – "Lonesome Whistle"

Music used in popular culture

The song "Dark Eyes", from the album Public Domain, can be heard playing over the radio during the third season of the television series Six Feet Under in the episode, "You Never Know".

The song "Dark Night", as recorded by the Blasters plays over the opening sequence of the movie From Dusk till Dawn.

The song "So Long Baby Goodbye", as recorded by the Blasters, plays over a scene in the film Bull Durham.

He makes an appearance and sings "Harlan County Line" in "I of the Storm" Episode 3 of Season 2 of Justified.


  • Nana, Big Joe & the Fourth of July (Iliteratim 1986) ASIN B000V96DW4
  • Any Rough Times Are Now Behind You (Incommunicado Press, 1996) ISBN 9781884615092


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Demming, Mark Dave Alvin Biography
  2. ^ Barabak, Mark Z. (June 3, 2011). "Troubadour of Troubled Times".  
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ a b Scherman, Tony (June 21, 2011). "Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven".  
  5. ^ Gallo, Phil (February 19, 2014). "Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Talk 'Common Ground' Album, Premiere 'All By Myself' Song: Listen Exclusively".  
  6. ^ Dougherty, Steve (May 29, 2014). "A Torn-Up Band of Brothers, Finally on the Mend".  
  7. ^ Lewis, Randy (June 6, 2014). "Dave and Phil Alvin, former Blasters mates, resurrect partnership". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 26, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Dave Alvin: Filmography".  

Further reading

  • Stambler, Irwin & Lyndon. (2001) Folk & Blues:The Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition. New York. St. Martin's Press. pp. 4–7. ISBN 0-312-20057-9

External links

  • Official web site
  • Dave Alvin profile at Music Match
  • Dave Alvin at NPR Music
  • Dave Alvin collection at the Internet Archive's live music archive
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