Downey to Lubbock, the duet album released by old friends and fellow musicians Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, makes reference to each man’s hometown—one in Texas, one in California. In the liner notes of the album, Alvin explains that despite their differences, the music pioneers have many commonalities, “Jimmie and I may have grown up a decade apart, with a thousand miles between us, but oddly enough, we grew up listening to, loving and being inspired by the same music.”
Each man is fluent in all American music—country, blues, rock ‘n roll and folk—all evidenced by the songs they chose for their album together, and for the stage they shared at The State Room on Tuesday night in a nearly two-hour long set.
For all Alvin’s charming frontman-swagger, Gilmore is an almost calming presence on the stage. He’s quiet and otherworldly in that pleasant southern man way—and so it was a little odd, but greatly appreciated that Alvin seemed to forgo his place front and center on the stage for his friend. Gilmore took the lead singer’s position on the stage, Alvin hung out behind with the band (actually, it was Alvin’s band, the Guilty Ones). And, maybe more significantly, Gilmore seemed to take the lead on vocals more often than not, too giving Alvin a chance to really show off his guitar-playing.
The two bantered back-and-forth for a large portion of the show. When I walked in (admittedly late), I caught the middle of a story about music legend Steve Young. Later, Gilmore told a long and rambling story about Les Paul, after a ‘I’ll set the up, you knock them down,’ assist from Alvin.
Highlights were a rendition of Alvin’s “Fourth of July” a cover of the ever-timely “Deportees” by Woody Guthrie, with haunting vocals by Gilmore.
The song, though, that served as a metaphor for the entire night was the final song of the night. The Alvin-written Zydeco-style “Marie, Marie” with snippets of the cover song fro the duos album and the negro spiritual “Down by the Riverside.” Resulting in a blending of the two mens voices, styles and American music overall that expanded far beyond the distance of between Texas and California.