“It’s like we’ve been playing together since we were kids,” says Downey, California’s Dave Alvin of his musical partnership with Lubbock, Texas native Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Given their myriad of shared influences and the undeniable chemistry the pair exhibits on Downey To Lubbock, it seems hard to believe they haven’t.
Friends for over three decades, it took Alvin – the founder of seminal punk roots band The Blasters – and Gilmore, of the pioneering country-folk trio The Flatlanders, until last year to collaborate at long last. Embarking on a spontaneous twelve-city tour, the two seasoned veterans of the road found a mutual love of New Orleans Rhythm & Blues, Texas and West Coast Country Music, traditional folk and early Rock n Roll. Their duo sets could effortlessly drift from Merle Hagard to Sam Cooke to the Youngbloods, and the pair had so much fun they began planning a record as soon as the tour wrapped.
The result is Downey To Lubbock, a twelve-song collection that takes on a diverse range of American music spanning nearly one hundred years. Along with ten covers, Dave Alvin wrote two originals for the record: the autobiographical title track and the fantastical “Billy The Kid and Geronimo.” The latter sees Alvin and Gilmore trade verses as their folk heroes have a prescient bar room debate on morality, oppression and injustice.
Elsewhere on Downey to Lubbock, Alvin and Gilmore explore the musical pipeline between their home states, taking on the work of Texan-Californians Lightnin’ Hopkins, Brownie McGhee and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. Hopkins was a personal favorite of both men during his regular sets at Los Angeles’ Ash Grove in the 1960s. A wholly unique version of “Deportee – Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” breathes new life into a 1940s Woody Guthrie classic that is timelier than ever, while contemporary covers focus on friends of Gilmore and Alvin gone too soon: Steve Young, John Stewart and Chris Gaffney.
Taking on all kinds of American music from the 1920s to the present is a very ambitious, very difficult feat to pull off. These two very particular music makers make it a joy to behold.