Published May 31, 2018Few current singer-songwriters can boast the long and illustrious pedigrees of Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Each were members of legendary roots combos (The Blasters and Flatlanders respectively, with Alvin also putting in time with X) who have gone on to produce a string of acclaimed solo albums.
Downey to Lubbock was born out of live shows Alvin and Gilmore performed together, and their mutual respect and empathy is clearly audible. The two alternate lead vocals and harmonize on some of the tracks, with Alvin occasionally content to add his ever-fluent guitar stylings to his comrade's vocals.
Alvin's rugged and bluesy delivery contrasts nicely to Gilmore's signature ethereal tenor, and their harmonies are sweet. Given that both are accomplished songwriters, it's a mite surprising there is only one joint original tune here, the opening title track. Alvin contributes "Billy the Kid and Geronimo," while the other material includes songs by fellow roots troubadours (Steve Young, John Stewart, and Chris Gaffney) and blues greats (Lightnin' Hopkins, Brownie McGhee).
Alvin is in fine voice on Stewart's "July, You're A Woman," while a touching rendition of Woody Guthrie classic "Deportee – Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" is another album highlight. Covers of the well-worn "Get Together" and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" are dispensable, however.
The cast of musical accompanists is A-list, including Van Dyke Parks, Skip Edwards, Don Heffington (Lone Justice), Lisa Pankratz, and former Torontonian Brad Fordham. The album closes out with "Walk On," a Brownie McGhee classic on which they trade vocals seamlessly between a sparkling guitar solo from Alvin. Lets hope for another joint walk down the road. (Yep Roc)