Monday, March 12, 2012

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Ones - Fitzgeralds - 3/9/2012

This was Uncle Dave, telling some bedtime stories, except instead of fairy tales about princesses and ogres and make-believe crap, his stories are about lost friends, badass old-timers, runaways, barroom troubadours and the women who love them, and other assorted characters on the fringe of society that most of us rarely encounter, may not want to encounter, but can’t help being drawn to when introduced to us through Dave’s eyes. He brings the stories home with six strings, some of them stinging us with the pain of a lost soulmate, others coming together in chords that give us a glimmer of hope that the runaway girl just might find a place to call home for the first time in her life.

There will be no falling asleep, either. Uncle Dave comes to town and tells your parents he knows it’s your bedtime, but you revel in the dark side and get chills as you hear the buzz of his amplifier fill your room. There’s no sleeping when Dave comes to town.

His van is filled with his cohorts… a supporting cast of players who know the stories well, yet are ready for a new twist he may add any night, taking their cues from a slight hitch of the guitar, a look from the corner of his eye, a nod of his head as he turns the page on the next guitar riff. Chris Miller handles the other guitar duties, often taking to the slide as the set up man for Dave’s next verse or solo. Brad Fordham keeps things rumbling on the bass clef so Dave can focus his efforts higher up neck. Alvin is clearly the star here and commands your attention in his boots and jeans, leather jacket, ever present bandana and worn cowboy hat and swagger, but the ringmaster who pulls them all together is drummer and Guilty Woman Lisa Pankratz. In a show a couple years ago Dave credited her for keeping him in line since he claims to have no sense of timing, but it goes beyond just keeping the beat. She gives off a sense of hyper-awareness, often staring intensely in Dave’s direction. Not always getting those cues, but sensing exactly when and where Dave is going next. She can take the beat down while he ponders his next move or pauses to carry on the narrative, building tension with some steady, subtle rhythms, but then just as easily she can rally the beat and send Dave off crack-the-whip style into a climactic solo that will leave you tattooed with every emotion that song conveys.

This is the best band working on the road today. Dave is the real deal, and he surrounds himself with the top people in the business. I normally go off on some ridiculous tangent in these show reviews, but I have too much respect for this band. Cracky says you’re a fool if you miss an opportunity to see Mr. Alvin.


  1. Also, a swell opening set by The Black Willoughbys. And thanks to Fitzgerald's for getting Dave to town as often as they do. You could tell Dave was sincere with all his compliments for the club and the Fitzgerald's family.

  2. Set List (If you're friends with Cracky on Facebook, this setlist is shared and published on his Spotify account.)

    Trouble Bound
    Harlan County Line
    Gary, Indiana
    Black Rose of Texas
    Long White Cadillac
    Run Conejo Run
    King of California
    Out of Control
    Dry River
    Marie Marie

    Fourth of July