story: Jim Dyar
Dave Alvin And The Guilty Women
Last October, Dave Alvin looked like the picture of relaxation as he rode jeans and boots sprawled in front of him on the back of a small flatbed transport through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Officials were driving him to one of the stages at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.
There, he would meet up with seven women with whom he’d soon perform in front of thousands of music fans. Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women had never played a gig together. In fact, they’d never even rehearsed together. The eight musicians would do some practicing in a tent backstage a few minutes before the show.
The afternoon could have been a train wreck. However, the group played like they’d been bonded for years. The audience loved it. After the set, Alvin’s friend and Yep Roc Records co-founder Glenn Dicker exclaimed, “We’ve got to make a record!”
They went on to do just that. And now, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women are out on tour. They perform at 8 pm June 25 at the Cascade Theatre in Redding.
“Sometimes you’ve got to put your faith in chance,” Alvin says, referring to the San Francisco gig. “It worked out beautifully. All of these women are masters of their instruments. I knew it would be good, but I didn’t know how good. It was a little scary for everybody, but I kind of thrive on that. I don’t hang-glide or parachute. I’m a musician, and this is sort of my idea of skydiving.”
Each of the Guilty Women are stars in their own right. The group includes Texas dobro wizard Cindy Cashdollar (Bob Dylan/Ryan Adams/Van Morrison), guitarist Nina Gerber (Kate Wolf/Nanci Griffith), bluegrass icon Laurie Lewis, Seattle songwriter Christy McWilson, bassist Sarah Brown (Buddy Guy/Albert Collins), Austin songwriter Amy Farris (Ray Price/Alejandro Escovedo), and drummer Lisa Pankratz (The Derailers/Rosie Flores).
Alvin had worked with most of the women in past projects, but never all at once.
“To put them all in one band is a dream come true,” Alvin says. “I like to do different things, and this seemed like a good thing to do.”
The Grammy-winning Alvin has continually changed the formula to progress his music. When he and his older brother Phil were lighting up Southern California audiences in the early 1980s with their high-energy punk/rockabilly band, the Blasters, Dave knew the band needed to keep progressing.
When the band started fighting, he left the Blasters and joined the influential punk band X. Later, he spent time in groups like The Knitters, The Flesh Eaters, The Gun Club. He ventured out with Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana for a wild ride in the Pleasure Barons.
As a solo artist since the late 1980s, Alvin has emerged as a passionate, consistent purveyor of American roots music. He’s gained a wide fan base from around the world and continues to make albums that display different shades of his music. His solo albums have ranged from the more twangy “Blue Blvd.” to the storytelling country-folk of “King of California” to the muscular blues of “Ashgrove.”
“The music is always rooted in exactly the same thing,” he says. “To me, each record is little different. I try to keep everything fun. I try to explore all the various ways of playing the music I love.”
Recording and performing with The Guilty Women has been a good distraction for Alvin. Just over a year ago, he lost his best friend and bandmate Chris Gaffney to liver cancer. Some North State music fans are familiar with Gaffney from his performances in Redding with the Hacienda Brothers.
Alvin coordinated and performed on the album “Man of Somebody’s Dreams: A tribute to the Songs of Chris Gaffney,” which includes artists like Calexico, Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, James McMurtry and more. The Gaffney tribute album was released on the same day (May 26) as “Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women.”
“My other job in life, aside from being a professional Dave Alvin imitator, is before I die in 85 years, I’m gonna make Gaffney a legend like Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill,” Alvin says. “He was a really great songwriter. Everybody gets beat up by the music industry, but Chris really had his unfair share of knocks. I’ve known a lot of people, and he was a rare duck. A rare bird.” Dave Alvin concert June 25 at the Cascade Theater General admission, $20; lower balcony, $25 Call 243-8877 or visit www.cascadetheatre.org for tickets Opening act: The North State’s own Jim Dyar Band