Dave Alvin was barely into his 20s when he wrote "American Music," the roots-rock anthem that serves as his watchword. With the Blasters, the Knitters, and on his own, Alvin surveys the expanse of America's musical landscape, including rock, country, folk, rockabilly, and the blues. Voiced in his rough-hewn but sonorous tones, his songs convey a workingman's poetry, while his supple playing rings true on roadhouse rave-ups and acoustic ballads alike.
His latest, West of West, salutes California songwriters who've inspired him along the way. There are the expected Haggard and Los Lobos covers, but Alvin also proffers such surprises as the blues makeover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Don't Look Now," along with "Surfer Girl," which he strips down for a doo-wop stroll. Ably backing Alvin are the Guilty Men, featuring keyboardist Joe Terry from influential bar band the Skeletons.