Jimmie Dale Gilmore Joins Dave Alvin

IMG_5821Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore had known each other for years on the Americana circuit, but it wasn’t until they joined forces for a brief acoustic tour last year did they find that they also cut their musical teeth watching blues greats at the old Ash Grove club in Los Angeles.

They decided to cut an album together for Yep Roc, Downey to Lubbock, that represented their respective hometowns and have gone out on tour together as a duo with the backing of Alvin’s band The Guilty Ones.

“I thought I was retired,” Gilmore, 73, said from the stage in explaining his gratitude at this late life venture. But the hollow wail of his unique tenor sounds just as compelling as it did in the Flatlanders . Together, their trading off of verses featuring personal traits on the album’s title song made for as entertaining a show theme song as you’d hope for. Then they followed largely with covers of songs by artists they both admired (and put on the album) as well as the best of the songs they’re known for.

That meant the lovely and enigmatic “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown,” “Dallas” and “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” (jumped up to a rockabilly beat) from Gilmore; and from Alvin, “Fourth of July” a couple weeks early, “Dry River” and “Marie, Marie” – the sole Blasters song.

They made an odd looking pair — Gilmore tall and gangly; his long white hair adding a ghostly appearance, opposite the solid and shorter Alvin, clad in his usual cowboy gear. Their two voices couldn’t be more different either. Gilmore’s high, keening lonely sound was opposite Alvin’s deep Western baritone. Trading off on songs meant a concise punch of their best stuff.

That they share musical influences made cover choices easy — and familiar — from Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” dedicated to Elvis drummer D.J. Fontana, who had just died, to the Memphis Jug Band’s “Stealin,’ Stealin.’” New to the tour was a winning cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” to start the encores.

The cover of the Youngbloods’ Summer of Love-era “Get Together” was one of the first things the two released, and it works because Gilmore’s sincerity cuts right past any peace ’n’ love nostalgia to an honest wish for today.

The one cover that didn’t work as well, surprisingly, was on Woody Guthrie’s “timeless and sadly timely” “Deportees — Plane Wreck at Los Gatos.” Having Gilmore to sing required a key change, when the deep voice of Alvin could have rung more true.

Two headliners on board meant less of a showcase for Alvin’s crack Guilty Ones. Still there were some moments from guitarist Chris Miller and a terrific drum solo on “Dry River” from the remarkable Lisa Pankratz. It shook things up for Alvin’s constant touring show, for sure, and it wasn’t just adding Gilmore’s music that changed it up; the Texan’s stage patter was all different too, with amusingly rusty shaggy dog tales that served no more purpose than to allow time for others to tune.

It was the duo who opened the show, Dead Rock West, Cindy Wasserman and Frank Drennen, joined on the anthemic “Get Together,” as she did on the album. Their opening set was highlighted by a trio of songs from an Everly Brothers tribute they put out. But I imagine they’d be stronger had they had their usual full band behind them.


The setlist for Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore Thursday was: 

  • “Downey to Lubbock”
  • “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown”
  • “Johnny Ace is Dead”
  • “Silverlake”
  • “Stealin’ Stealin’”
  • “Fourth of July”
  • “Deportees – Plane Wreck at Los Gatos”
  • “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”
  • “Billy the Kid and Geronimo”
  • “Dry River”
  • “Get Together”
  • “Dallas”
  • “Bring It On Home to Me”
  • “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own”
  • “Marie, Marie”
  • “Downey to Lubbock” (reprise)


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