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Alvin and His Guilty Men Let the Good Times Roll

Pop Music Review

September 13, 1999|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With his rootsy music and tales of imperfect heroes tangling with forces beyond their control, singer-songwriter Dave Alvin was the model of Everyman during his show Saturday at the Roxy--although Everyman doesn't usually invoke both Chicago bluesman Magic Sam and French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre when describing one of his songs.

There were surprising juxtapositions at every turn during the guitarist's rare hometown performance with his quartet, the Guilty Men. Yet they came naturally to Alvin, who has been preserving and breathing new life into traditional American music since he and his brother Phil formed the seminal roots-rock band the Blasters 20 years ago.

During the two-hour set that spanned his 12-year solo career, Alvin demonstrated his prodigious gifts as a guitarist and showed off his ever-improving baritone in songs that mixed and matched a dizzying variety of folk and blues styles blended with country and rock.

Along with homages to such heroes as R&B saxophonist Lee Allen and Texas bluesman Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Alvin offered a myth-busting view of California in such tunes as "California Snow," from his latest album, "Blackjack David."

Yet as the players tackled every elastic blues groove and rollicking folk melody with precision and barn-burning verve, they underscored that the primary point was not preservation or protest, but a good time.

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