Dave Alvin is rock 'n' roll's true everyman. That role has been ably played in the past by Springsteen and Mellencamp and Hiatt and a host of others whose perspective has been altered by the distance that success ultimately imposed upon their working-class roots. Alvin might be in the Big Book of Rock for his footnotable work in the Blasters and X and for his estimable solo catalog, but he still drives to the gigs in his van, humps his own equipment, and is a visible presence at his own post-show merch table, signing CDs and thanking fans for their support. If your dad played guitar, he'd be Dave Alvin.
The various hats Alvin has sported throughout his career are all in evidence on Out in California, the guitarist's first solo live album. The one aspect of Alvin's repertoire that Out in California omits is his relentless cross-country roaddoggery - he will drive anywhere to play to anyone. Rather than sample a handful of shows from Alvin's vast array of gigs from coast to coast, Out in California is culled from a trio of Cali shows recorded last summer.
It's hard to fault Alvin for choosing performances from his home state, the place that helped launch and continues to fervently support his career. Interestingly, Alvin doesn't really stack the deck with flawless performances or contrived set lists, preferring to present his show unvarnished and pure, pretty much like the man himself. Alvin has always pegged himself as a folk artist, which he proves deftly with simple covers of "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" and "All 'Round Man," as well as his own brilliant American folk songs, including the Civil War horror story "Andersonville" and his anthemic "Fourth of July." The only thing missing from Out in California is the wild electric spark that travels through the crowd when Alvin gets a joint rocking, but no tape can capture and translate that unpredictable current. As second bests go, this is a pretty good one.
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