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91.3 KBCS Presents: Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore + Christy McWilso

  • Date: February 15, 2018
  • Time: 8:00pm
  • Address:
    5213 Ballard Ave North West
    Seattle, WA 98107

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Upcoming Events for Dave Alvin

The poignant journey which culminated in Dave Alvin's new album Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women began on one of those San Francisco fall days that seemed to melt back into the bay fog as slyly as it emerged. Dave Alvin was bounding off the stage at the massive, free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Nearly before he was able to set foot on his beloved California dirt, Alvin was grabbed by friend and Yep Roc label co-founder Glenn Dicker. "We've gotta make a record!"

The reason for Dicker's excitement - and the excitement of the thousands of music fans who just witnessed it - was the set Alvin and all female band The Guilty Women had just laid down moments before. Dave and band members Cindy Cashdollar, Nina Gerber, Laurie Lewis, Christy McWilson, Sarah Brown, Amy Farris and Lisa Pankratz blazed through their set, surprising each other at every turn. "It just felt so natural," says Alvin. "It was like I had been playing with them for a hundred years."

You couldn't tell, watching him on stage that day, but the events in Alvin's life that had led up to it were some of the most trying of his life. Six months before, Guilty Men accordionist Chris Gaffney passed away following a valiant battle with cancer. Gaffney wasn't only the accordionist in Alvin's band, he was his best friend.

As support and well wishes flowed to Gaffney's family from friends and fellow musicians, Alvin set out calling some of the biggest names in roots music to come together to honor is fallen friend. The result, Man of Somebody's Dreams: A Tribute to the Songs of Chris Gaffney will be released by Yep Roc along side Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women on 5/26/09. Artists and friends like Calexico, Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, James McMurtry and many more coalesced for an album of Gaffney songs benefiting his family and the non-profit Hungry for Music, who provide musical instruments to underprivileged children (hungryformusic.org). "The response from the artists was immediate," remarks Alvin. "They all wanted a chance to help Chris' family and most of all, a chance to pay tribute to him and his songs!"

With the catharsis of the tribute album project in tow, Alvin turned his attention to his next musical move. One thing was clear, he knew he wasn't yet ready to record with The Guilty Men again. The wound of Gaffney's death was still too fresh, the space on the stage where he once stood still too empty. Alvin decided now was the time for something new. Knowing Hardly Strictly was just up the tracks, he called friend and Austin-based guitarist Cindy Cashdollar. Cashdollar jumped in with both feet and the other ladies followed suit. Having played together in various incarnations with several Guilty Women in the past, Alvin was confident the chemistry would be right. "The reality that we'd never played together as a group and that there was no time to rehearse before our debut performance didn't bother me at all. I knew that they were all master musicians who could easily handle any sort of song I could throw at them. And that's exactly what they did and they did it effortlessly and beautifully."

The Austin, TX recording sessions progressed in much the same fashion with Christy McWilson contributing two songs, Sarah Brown one and an Amy Farris/Dave Alvin co-write. The tunes were built around Dave's acoustic guitar work, with the ladies surrounding Alvin with an instrumental blanket that made it clear womanly intuition isn’t just an emotional asset but a musical one as well.

The Guilty Women are:

CINDY CASHDOLLAR (steel and lap steel guitar, Weissenborn, Beard resophonic guitar, National Tricone, National Baritone Tricone)

Austin-based Dobro and steel guitarist Cindy Cashdollar's career has taken some surprising twists and turns that have led her to work with many of the leading artists in contemporary music including Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, Asleep at the Wheel, Garrision Keillor, Marcia Ball, Jorma Kaukonen, Leon Redbone, BeauSoleil, Daniel Lanois, and Redd Volkaert. Cindy's unerring ability to perfectly compliment a song or step out with a tasteful, imaginative, and exciting solo - and to do it in so many musical genres - has made her one of the most in-demand musicians on the American roots music scene.

NINA GERBER (electric guitars)

Nina Gerber's music career began soon after hearing the late singer/songwriter Kate Wolf perform in Sebastopol, CA in the mid seventies. Nina was so inspired by Kate's music that she decided to become a professional accompanist and followed Kate around until she finally hired Nina to play in her band. That collaboration lasted for 8 years, until Kate's death in 1986. Since then, Nina has performed and/or recorded with Karla Bonoff, Eliza Gilkyson, Greg Brown, Nanci Griffith, Lucy Kaplansky, Queen Ida, Terry Garthwaite, Laurie Lewis, and Mollie O'Brien to name a few. Nina has produced and arranged many recordings, as well as 3 of her own CD's.

LAURIE LEWIS (violin, mandolin, harmony vocals)

Laurie Lewis, twice named Female Vocalist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association and a past California fiddle champ, is a pivotal figure in transforming bluegrass music from a regional genre into a truly international musical language. Laurie has carved out a diverse career as a bandleader, songwriter, singer, fiddler, teacher, and producer, playing and singing on the Grammy-winning recording "True Life Blues." She has worked with the all-women "supergroup" Blue Rose; long-time duo partner Tom Rozum; first generation bluegrass pioneer Ralph Stanley; and most recently her own band, the Right Hands.

CHRISTY MCWILSON (lead and harmony vocals)

A musical anomaly in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle's Christy McWilson and her band "The Picketts" stood steadfast against the overwhelming force of Seattle grunge during the 1990s, releasing 2 albums for Rounder Records and one for Popllama. Christy went on to record two solo albums on Hightone Records (both produced by Dave Alvin).

SARAH BROWN (bass)

Bassist and songwriter Sarah Brown's lengthy credits include backing up a "Who's Who" list of blues legends such as Buddy Guy and Albert Collins, working with roots artists such as Dave Alvin, Bill Kirchen and Rosie Flores, and touring with British rockers Billy Bragg, Paul Carrack and Ian McLagan. A winner of numerous awards, she appears on over 60 recordings, including her own CD. Her songs have been recorded by such notables as R&B legend Ruth Brown and New Orleans star Irma Thomas. Sarah makes her home in Austin, Texas.

AMY FARRIS (violin, viola and harmony vocals)

A native of Austin, Texas, Amy started playing violin at age ten. She is a vet of the Austin music scene, playing with artists such as Ray Price, Alejandro Escovedo, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison and Ray Wylie Hubbard. A longtime fan of Dave Alvin, X, and the Knitters, Amy moved to Los Angeles when Dave offered to produce her first solo CD Anyway, released by Yep Roc in 2004. Dave co-wrote several songs with Amy including the title track, which he re-recorded for the Guilty Women record. Since moving to Los Angeles, Miss Farris has performed and/or recorded with Dave Alvin, Brian Wilson, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Stan Ridgway, Greg Dulli, Peter Case, and many others. She's also played on the soundtracks of the television shows Mad Men and King of the Hill. She has also performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with David Letterman, Austin City Limits, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Grand Ol' Opry and Sessions on West 54th St.

LISA PANKRATZ (drums, percussion)

Drummer Lisa Pankratz was born in Austin and raised in Dripping Springs, TX. She began touring with legendary Dallas rock and roller Ronnie Dawson in the early 1990's and in him found a musical soul mate, establishing a national reputation as both a solid and exciting drummer. Since then some of the artists who have called on Lisa's versatile drumming skills include Ronnie Dawson, The Derailers, Rosie Flores, Robbie Fulks, Toni Price, Dale Watson, Deke Dickerson, Marti Brom, Roger Wallace, Bill Kirchen, Billy Joe Shaver, Hayes Carll and Dave Alvin. She has performed on Austin City Limits, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, at the Grand Ole Opry and Carnegie Hall.

Upcoming Events for Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Five years is a lot of time. A lot of time to think about what was lost and what remains. Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s Dad, Brian Gilmore, died 5 years ago from ALS, the cruel disease that killed Lou Gehrig. Brian Gilmore was not a church-going man, nor was he a singer. Most of his life he was a poor man who listened to the radio at all hours and played guitar—specifically a blue, solid-body Fender electric guitar, perhaps the first in west Texas—at dances and picnics. The elder Gilmore worshipped singers, including Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, and named his son for the Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers. As a tribute to his father, Jimmie Dale Gilmore has recorded 13 of Brian Gilmore’s favorite songs. The result is Come On Back, due on Rounder Records August 16.

Raised in the somewhat-fabled West Texas town of Lubbock (home of Buddy Holly, Prairie Dog Town and “world famous sunsets”), Jimmie Dale Gilmore first responded to the honky-tonk brand of country music his father played as a bar-band guitarist. This was before he heard the rock `n’ roll siren call issued by his West Texas brethren, Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison, the folk and deep Delta blues, Bob Dylan or The Beatles.

The songs on the new album have always been at the root of Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s ever-evolving musical sensibility. He explains, “I never fell into any of the categories…I just love what I love and I’ve never discarded anything I loved in favor of something new. I sure didn't toss out my Lefty Frizzell records when I discovered the Beatles.”

“The thing to understand about these songs is that they were monster hits in Lubbock. I know them so well, it was real easy for me to forget that most people have never heard these songs before: To me, Lefty Frizzell is both bigger and better than Sinatra. I’d say to Joe [Ely, the record’s producer], ‘Oh, we can’t do ‘Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,’ that song’s been overdone,’ and Joe would set me straight, flat out, he’d say, ‘Nobody knows Slim Willett and sure nobody knows that song.’ So we’d record it.”

Joe Ely was a boyhood buddy of Gilmore in West Texas and is similarly steeped in the music that makes up Come on Back. Over three decades ago, along with Butch Hancock, Ely and Gilmore founded The Flatlanders, a local term for folks who live in the kind of landscape the southwest has to spare. More of a song-swap than a commercial endeavor, the band’s sole recording project in 1973—released only in the short-lived 8-track format—was barely distributed. It has since been recognized as a landmark in progressive, alternative country music. (The record was re-issued by Rounder in 1991 under the title More a Legend Than a Band).

Disillusioned by the poor sales of their first release, the group disbanded, though the friendships continued. But the Flatlanders occasionally reunited for special occasions. Robert Redford had them reconvene for a song on the soundtrack to The Horse Whisperer in 1998. By two years later, the legendary group became a bona fide working band, making two highly acclaimed new albums—Now Again (2002) and Wheels of Fortune (2004).

But following the disbanding of The Flatlanders, Gilmore did not make another record for 16 years. He spent much of the `70s in a Denver ashram, while his songs, especially “Dallas” and “Treat Me Like a Saturday Night,” were establishing his reputation through Joe Ely’s recordings. It wasn’t until 1988 that Gilmore released his first solo album, the Ely-produced Fair & Square, his first attempt to merge his spiritual quest with a recording career.

A second, eponymous album followed a year later, and the next decade saw the full flowering of this late, but glorious, bloomer. Three albums he recorded for Nonesuch/Elektra between 1991 and 1996 elicited global accolades—After Awhile (highlight of the label’s American Explorer series), Spinning Around the Sun and Braver Newer World. Rolling Stone named him Country Artist of the Year two years straight and he received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Artist. Gilmore’s last solo album was One Endless Night, which Rounder released to critical praise in 2000.

About Come on Back, Jimmie Dale Gilmore recalls, “I recorded the songs as they sprang into my head… Just the other day, I was frettin’ about there being no Roy Acuff songs on the record. I could easily have done an album of songs my Daddy taught me and had ‘em all be Hank Williams songs. That would have been a different, and darker, record. I wasn’t consciously aware that I was choosing more light-hearted songs; maybe I did it that way because my Dad was so brave in the way he faced his illness.”

“I sang Hank Williams’ ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive’ in a play called Hillbilly Heaven by Kimmie Rhodes and Joe Sears we did in Austin awhile back. Dad drove out from Lubbock to see it and it turned out to be his last road trip before the diagnosis. He loved that song. It says something true and hard to accept in such a simple, kind-hearted way.”

In part because Jimmie Dale Gilmore was so close with his father, Come on Back is a portrait of his own life as well as his Dad’s. He explains, for example, “‘Jimmie the Newsboy’ is a Carter Family song, though I learned it from the Flatt & Scruggs recording. I actually met Earl Scruggs backstage one night in Lubbock in the mid-60s. I have to say he was a great guitar player, though he was best known for the banjo. He gave me some good guitar advice, told me to get myself a Gibson Country & Western guitar. I wore it out entirely. It has a cool, mirror image pick-guard, the same shape above and below the sound hole. There’s a great portrait of it on the record, and there’s a shot of Dad’s Fender too.”

Making the album, Jimmie Dale Gilmore was reminded of lessons he learned about singing early on: “All these songs, the thing about them is that the original recordings were all by great singers. Country music made it OK for a singer to have less than a perfect voice—as long as you had a sound that was identifiable and had a great feeling.” One of his theories about the origin of his own vocal sound arises from a memory of driving across Arizona early in the 1960s listening to a reservation radio station. The program was toggling between old-timey and Indian recordings and Jimmie was astonished to hear voices so much like his grandfather’s in the Native American chants. Brian Gilmore was raised in the Primitive Baptist Church and Jimmie remembers vividly the quavering insistence of the congregation’s shape-note singing.

“There’s Cherokee on both sides of my family, so maybe it’s not surprising that I heard what I heard. I’m sure there’s some connection between shape-note singing and Indian chants, but I don’t know that anyone has looked into it.”

“Marty Robbins’ ‘Don’t Worry `Bout Me’ was probably the biggest song, in terms of popularity, because it was both a country hit and a pop hit. As for ‘Train of Love,’ the Johnny Cash song, well, Dad always loved Johnny and one night he took my sister and me to see Johnny and Elvis on the same bill. Might have been at the Fairpark Coliseum in Beaumont. Sled Allen was Terry’s Dad [Terry Allen was another founding Flatlander] and he was a colorful character; used to bring a lot of musicians and barnstorming baseball teams to what he called the Sled Allen Arena in Lubbock.”

The album’s final song is something of an anomaly. Gilmore recalls, “Dad told my daughter Elyse just before he died that now he guessed his favorite song was ‘Peace in the Valley.’ That song is totally outside of my normal thing and I wasn’t sure I could sing it. I like black gospel music but I’ve never been much of a fan of what they call Sacred Music. Of course, Elvis sang it so beautifully. I was surprised how well it worked for me.”

The record’s title, Come On Back, has nothing to do with any sad fantasy. Instead, the phrase comes from “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down,” the Harlan Howard track that opens the record, and was intended as an invitation to come back to the real country music, “back where you belong.” “Since I’ve been teaching songwriting [at Omega Institute and Esalen], I think I’ve learned probably more than my students have. Teaching forced me to articulate my ideas about songwriting and I think that between teaching and thinking so much about the music that my Dad and I loved, I had a renewed appreciation for these unpretentious songs. They’re short, to the point, economical, like folk art, really. Joe kept saying, ‘We just gotta stay out of the way of these songs,’ and I think he was right.”

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