Record Review - 4 July 17 2002

Recorded live in the titular state, Out in California is a refreshingly complete overview of rocker Dave Alvin’s checkered career, with nods to his tenure in both the Blasters and X. It also offers what will, in all likelihood, stand as the definitive readings of his best solo material. Older songs such as “Haley’s Comet” and the rollicking “Wanda and Duane” appear in extremely well-rehearsed uptempo versions, delivered with speed and confidence by his Guilty Men backing band, who fit Alvin’s rugged style as comfortably as a well-worn denim jacket.

A particular beneficiary is “Abilene.” Rendered live, its windswept western tale of redemption and renewal stands out in bold relief, surpassing even the impressive studio rendition from Alvin’s 1998 CD, Blackjack David. Especially interesting to Southern fans will be “Andersonville,” a harrowing true story set in the notorious Confederate prison camp (where one of Alvin’s ancestors perished), which the singer never performs live below the Mason-Dixon Line. And sit tight for the amusing hidden track, on which the Guilty Men get called back for a well-deserved encore and respond — cleverly and hilariously — to a request for “Freebird,” which ends this fine disc on a delightfully upbeat note.