In Eleven Eleven (his 11th album, with 11 songs, released in 2011), Alvin expertly mixes a deep electric blues approach with the gentler side of his vocalizing and talk-singing,
so it's got a tough overall sound that he hasn't tapped into in ages. The characters in his great songs are desperate, on the run, or down and out, and he matches them with stirring music, often with a Southwest feel.
From the dramatic intro to "Harlan County Line" to the lovely duet with Picketts vocalist Christy McWilson ("Manzanita"), Eleven Eleven is first rate Alvin, which is saying a lot. When I saw the title "Gary, Indiana 1959," I thought, "now how is Dave Alvin gonna write a song about Michael Jackson and keep it from sounding superficial?" I say that because on his previous release, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women, he penned a tune that vaguely alluded to Karen Carpenter--both DA and KC are from the same town (Downey, California).
Thankfully, "Gary, Indiana 1959" is about the once-roaring midwest steel town and not about its most famous resident, who was born in 1958. Once again, gritty, working class music prevails in Dave Alvin's world. Maybe he will write a song about guys like me who can't even get a custodial job, or a recent interview I was granted recently, only to find out that the opening was for the kind of minimum wage work I was doing 40 years ago. Thanks for the album, Dave; your honest, heartfelt work gives me hope. Eleven Eleven