When the time comes to film Cormac McCarthy’s “Border Trilogy,” if Dave Alvin doesn’t do the music, then something’s wrong. Like the best fiction, Blackjack David is more than words and sound. It’s real life. Alvin strikes you as one of those people you see at parties, standing in the corner watching it all. When it comes time to tell what he’s seen, such as on “California Snow” or “From a Kitchen Table,” you are there, eavesdropping on these suddenly real people.
Alvin is best known as one of the Blasters, where he wrote such classics as “Border Radio” and “Marie Marie.” This album finds him in a more mature, country/folk feel. You’d be hard pressed to recognize the frenzied rockabilly rave-up of the Blasters on this record, or the slash and burn guitar style that got Alvin a spot with X. Instead, he creates moments with his songs that really make you sit back and wonder how he built such powerful music out of such simple pieces. The title cut, a traditional tune arranged by Alvin, sounds like it was recorded yesterday, with a touch of a Daniel Lanois airiness in the production. Or maybe it was recorded in Robert Johnson’s hotel room half a century ago. It’s that sort of record. Hightone Records, 220 4th Street, #101, Oakland, CA 94607