Clip from a commercial shoot:
Pardon the crappy wind blown phone audio - it is a phone clip of the actual video shoot - a European insurance commercial (Zwitserleven) for the Dutch market. Here we are in Page, Arizona where I'm serenading the lovely, Emmy award winning Dutch actress Maryam Hassouni with Dave Alvin's "King Of California". Only a fraction of me made it to the final cut of the commercial which you can see if you scroll down to the very bottom of all these other videos along with a nice "making of" of this fun California, Arizona and Utah location shoot - there's a little more of me in that.
The Elks Theater Videos
The story on the videos is that we were attempting an audio recording session in the classic Elks Theater in downtown Prescott, Arizona, and I asked my good friend Carlos, of ArcSolStudios, to document it on video. Well, we didn't get the results from the recording session we were going for so I just set it aside. However, a few months later when Carlos showed me the video it gave me the idea to blend the audio from the two sources; the audio he recorded in the camera, and what was salvaged from the aborted audio recording session to make it at least sound as good as we possibly could with what we had. That's what you have here, just cinéma vérité of some of what we did that night, recorded live in real time, with all the imperfections in tact.
The videos where I'm wearin' the "T"shirt and am singing cover songs are from the soundcheck of this session and the audio is only from the camera, which is why it's of lesser sound quality.
This is a song I wrote about my own "wonder years" when my Grandad and Grandma took me all around the country in their Buick, showing me everything they could, from the swamps of Florida to the great Rocky Mountains. They came from the central Illinois prairie, near Springfield, so many of our trips included excursions visiting Abraham Lincoln's historical sights as well as a lot of trips up and down the mighty Mississippi River exploring Mark Twain territory.
I Don't Care What You Say
I wrote this song about the bittersweet and painful process of breaking away from someone; sort of a honked-up "Don't Think Twice" (Bob Dylan) in spirit; or as my good friend Rick Shea would, and has said; "If Leavin' Was a Fast Train..."
White Freightliner Blues (Townes Van Zandt)
Townes wrote many a great masterpieces of song. This is one of his fun and fast ones. In the Tower Of Song, one of the mightiest of all time.
It's about a girl, a boy, a small town, and crystal meth...
Saddle Up The Palomino (Neil Young)
A song off of Neil's 1977 "American Stars and Bars" album. I always loved it because it really cracked me up, but I never learned it because I never had any relationship with a Palomino; then I did, so here you go. If nothing else it helps disprove the rumors that Neil Young (& me) only know three chords.
Bottles Behind The Bar
This is my drinking away a heartbreak song, not a new idea but this one's mine. Extra credit if you can spot the two lines that are a direct reference and tribute to a master of drinking songs, Merle Haggard.
1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie)
This video, from soundcheck, is “1913 Massacre" - a great Woody Guthrie song, a true story about a labor strife event in the copper mining town of Calumet, in the upper peninsula of Michigan. A lot of folks don’t know that several of the same mining companies that mined and made the boomtowns what they were in the Western United States, were also up there in the Michigan copper country. This is the only song I ever asked (so far) Ramblin’ Jack Elliott to teach me how to play. Many consider his as the definitive version of the song. It’s deceptively simple and I could never get it right. I always hesitated to ask him how to play anything because he often told the story of he, himself asking Woody the same question about some song and Woody’s response was - “It’s on the record, Jack”. Which means, learn it yourself!
Well, on one of my Ramblin’ Jack adventures, we were in Grant’s Pass Oregon, and he was opening up for the great Guy Clark, backstage, Guy asked him the same question I had - “how the hell do you play that 1913 Massacre?”. There was no time for him to teach it to Guy, but later on, on the same trip, I was opening up for Jack at an old church in the middle of nowhere in Oregon, in the town of Richmond, where we were staying at a friends ranch nearby for a few days. Thinking of Guy, it gave me the courage to ask, so Jack grabbed my guitar and laid it on me. I don’t play it exactly like him but I found the missing notes to make it work (you should learn how to do it right before you do it wrong!)
The Acoustic Music San Diego Concert Series Videos.
I had the good fortune of opening for Dave Alvin down in San Diego at this wonderful old church that just sounded amazing, The Normal Heights Methodist Church. It was such an honor to open for Dave, a huge inspiration to me. In my late teens I first saw Dave in The Blasters opening for Eric Clapton on his "Money and Cigarettes" tour at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I still have the ticket stub ($11). I remember being extremely disappointed that Clapton mostly just strummed chords, I couldn't figure it out (this is before we knew everything that was going on in everyone's lives on the internet, errr - don't forget to read my "news" page!). I was amazed that the 2nd guitar player took most all of the leads at an Eric Clapton show, even in "Layla". Of course I was too young and ignorant to know and appreciate that the other guitar player was the great Albert Lee, which I had the privilege and pleasure of telling that very story to back stage at an Everly Brothers show, Albert was the bandleader, and I was there with Ramblin' Jack who opened for them. I learned later from Dave that at a previous show on the Clapton/Blasters tour in Detroit, I think it was, the Blasters drummer, Bill Bateman, had to sit in for Clapton's touring drummer because he wasn't able. Rock and Roll baby!!! Cut to some 20 years later and I'm at the "Monsters Of Folk" Hightone Records West coast barnstorming tour stop at McCabe's in Santa Monica, California to see Ramblin' Jack, and for the first time I get to witness a solo Dave Alvin, and a Tom Russell and a Chris Smither. It was a revelation that changed my life, it was like being a teenager discovering the deep cuts of The Who and The Stones and Led Zeppelin after only knowing AM radio - I had never heard these guys' solo stuff and I had no idea that there were folks out there on the roots level making music this magnificent. It gave me what I needed to go solo and sing my own songs, so hell yeah, I was proud to open for Dave. Kurt Mahoney was there to video Dave's show and was kind enough to tape me too.
One from the ancient archives!
30 years later, the reunion...
Zwitserleven commercial and "making of" documentary: