"Tunin' up my guitar/Standin' on the stage/I'm just tryin' to raise the ghosts up out of their graves." The title track of Dave Alvin's most recent album, Ashgrove, explicitly places him in the continuum of the great blues performers he discovered in his early teens. Big Joe Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and the Reverend Gary Davis are referenced as having played the long-lost Ashgrove club, which burned down more than 30 years ago.
Alvin is not strictly a bluesman, and he never has been. In the early '80s, he was the roots-rock avatar whose songs for the Blasters were incendiary, catchy and overflowing with human foibles, kindness and pleasures. When he went solo, he wrote country songs, putting his themes to fables and stories wrapped neatly into a few verses.
So what are we to make of this claim of raising the ghosts of Ashgrove? Well, Alvin's first love may have been blues, but he clearly sees it as just one of the byways of the "American Music" he so lovingly celebrated with the Blasters. Ashgrove, the album, has several songs about old ways dying out, moving on, being forgotten, being carried on. Some of them are blues, some of them are country, one is in the mold of a quiet, jazzy pop style. Dave Alvin is more aware than ever that the past informs the present. Put him on a stage, and he'll draw on the lessons he learned watching the greats of the past and apply them to whatever material he chooses to share. -- Steve Pick
Show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15; call 314-534-1111 for more information.