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Former Blaster Alvin explores early folk

Public Domain
Public Domain
By Dave Alvin

HighTone Records: 2000

This review first appeared in the October 15, 2000 edition of the American Reporter.

Dave Alvin has carved out a respected (if not particularly lucrative) niche in American music as one of the originators of the roots revival movement that mines blues and country for new inspiration. As a founder and leader of the rockabilly revivalist band The Blasters twenty years ago, Alvin helped launch a popular interest in the sounds that originally came together to create rock music.

For his latest recording, Alvin goes back even further. "Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land" is a collection of American folk songs presented in stripped-down arrangements.

While this is far from a rock album, nor is it stuck in a strictly traditional approach. Alvin's arrangements of these old gems may be beholden to our history, but is never enslaved to it. Much like the British folk revivalists in the late '60s – bands like Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span – Alvin plays the old songs with a modern twist, breathing new life into them.

The songs include both the familiar ("Shenandoah," "Walk Right In," "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down") and the more obscure. All are accessible and as listenable as they are historic in Alvin's hands.