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Album Review: Dave Alvin's 'Eleven Eleven'

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Loss, its myriad manifestations and emotional after-effects form the heart of the latest from veteran singer-songwriter-guitarist Dave Alvin, who’s experienced plenty firsthand in recent years.

The premature deaths of close friends and musical cohorts Chris Gaffney and Amy Farris figure directly into the sinuous Bo Diddley beat-based “Run Conejo Run” and the hauntingly gorgeous ballad “Black Rose of Texas,” respectively.

As usual with the ever-insightful Alvin, the specifics of his raw material are the means to broader truths rather than an end in themselves. Alvin’s more interested in how we handle the losses life inevitably doles out, and the choice between letting them be a source of defeat or a sharpened commitment to embracing all of life’s facets.

Defeat seems to triumph at times, but Alvin closes on a hopeful note — an almost Hope-and-Crosby note, in fact — in “Two Lucky Bums,” a duet with the woefully underappreciated Gaffney recorded shortly before he died of cancer in 2009: “Been chasing the same old dreams/ Down a road that never ends/ And given the chance, old friend/ I know we’d do it again.”

It’s no coincidence a wordsmith like Alvin chose to end that thought with a word that marries “a gain,” knowing and fully accepting the fact that it’s the inescapable flip side of the coin of loss.

Dave Alvin

“Eleven Eleven”

Yep Roc

Three and ½ stars (Out of four)

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— Randy Lewis

 
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