Dave Alvin Public Domain

As a solo performer and through his ferocious lead guitar with the Blasters, Dave Alvin has always maintained a reverence for American music without ever letting it interfere with his own creative process. On Public Domain, he finally gives in to his roots, tackling 15 folk and country standards, mostly in an acoustic setting that attempts to place the songs in their original context. While Alvin's choices can hardly be faulted ("Maggie Campbell," "Engine 143" and "East Virginia Blues"), it's too bad he is following in the recent footsteps of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and the Harry Smith Anthologies in resurrecting these songs. As an interpreter, Alvin cannot hope to stand up to such comparisons, but Public Domain is still a vital trawl through the American folk canon for anyone who hasn't heard these songs before, even though one is left at the end feeling like you've just watched a sepia-toned documentary rather heard a bunch of people enjoying themselves playing music. That's unfortunate since Alvin's own work has always been full of energy. (Hightone)