"It's like we've been playing together since we were kids," says Downey, CA's Dave Alvin of his musical partnership with Lubbock, TX native Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Given their myriad of shared influences and the undeniable chemistry the pair exhibits on Downey To Lubbock, it seems hard to believe they haven't. Friends for over three decades, it took Alvin – the founder of seminal punk roots band The Blasters – and Gilmore, of the pioneering country-folk trio The Flatlanders, until 2017 to collaborate at long last. Embarking on a spontaneous twelve-city tour, the two seasoned veterans of the road found a mutual love of New Orleans rhythm & blues, Texas and West Coast country music, traditional folk and early rock n roll. Their duo sets could effortlessly drift from Merle Hagard to Sam Cooke to the Youngbloods, and the pair had so much fun they began planning a record as soon as the tour wrapped.
The result is Downey To Lubbock, a collection that takes on a diverse range of American music spanning nearly one hundred years. Along with ten covers, Alvin wrote two originals for the record: the autobiographical title cut and the fantastical "Billy The Kid and Geronimo." The latter sees the duo trade verses as their folk heroes have a prescient bar room debate on morality, oppression and injustice. Elsewhere, they explore the musical pipeline between their home states, taking on the work of Lightnin' Hopkins, Brownie McGhee and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Hopkins was a personal favorite of both men during his regular sets at L.A.'s Ash Grove in the '60s. A wholly unique version of "Deportee – Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" breathes new life into a '40s Woody Guthrie classic that is timelier than ever, while contemporary covers focus on friends gone too soon: Steve Young, John Stewart and Chris Gaffney.