“The thing about our hometowns is, a lot of our important first-time experiences happen there,” says musician Dave Alvin, calling in from somewhere near Salt Lake City, “and those first-time experiences tend to have a big part in making us who we are. Whether it’s the first time you saw a puppy dog or a tree, or your first hamburger, or your first kiss, whatever it is, it probably happened in your home town. They did for me. So you know, no matter where I go now and what I do, no matter how many puppy dogs and trees I see, or kisses I share or hamburgers I eat, I am always the guy who had my first-time experiences of those things in Downey, California, my hometown, the specific place that shaped those experiences by the mere fact that that’s where they happened.”
Alvin, whose first band, The Blasters, was formed in Downey before he went on to play with the pioneering punk band X — just the beginning of a long, impressively varied career that includes huge swaths of folk and Americana music — is about to hit the road with his band and touring partner Jimmie Dale Gilmore, after playing The State Room in Salt Lake the night before. It’s just one of many stops on a tour that began in late May, and will bring Alvin and Gilmore to Petaluma’s Mystic Theater this Saturday night, Oct. 6. For the record, Gilmore — himself a certified country music legend — grew up in Lubbock, Texas.
That’s why the duo’s critically acclaimed new album is titled “Downey to Lubbock.” The name is taken from the song of the same name, honoring the singers’ home towns, while mining poetic gems from the notion of living in a place and moving away, but always carrying a bit of that place with you.
Asked if the long list of cities he and Gilmore have played on the current tour will include either Downey or Lubbock, Alvin laughs.
“We thought about it,” he admits, “but the problem with my hometown is there’s not an appropriate venue, you know? And Jimmie’s hometown, Lubbock, does have one venue that’s not too bad, but Lubbock is not central to anywhere. So it just didn’t make sense to try and make that happen.”
And for what it’s worth, Alvin points out, the title of the album is technically a metaphorical reference, not so much a geographical one. That (geographical metaphor) is territory he’s explored many times, most notably in his gorgeous song “Dry River,” inspired by the cement-lined San Gabriel River, which flows through Downey but frequently has no water in it.
Geographical metaphors don’t get much juicier than that.
“So with that in mind,” Alvin says, “since we ARE speaking metaphorically, I’d have to say that every single night Jimmie and I go out on stage, we are playing in Downey and Lubbock — ’cause you just can’t get away from your hometown, no matter how hard you might try. You can’t help but view the world through the eyes of that person who learned how to see the world in that specific place you grew up.”
Though it might appear on the surface that Gilmore and Alvin come from entirely different backgrounds — particularly in terms of the music they are famous for bringing into the world — Alvin says that the two old friends have only recently discovered how much they have in common. During a stripped-down tour in early 2017, featuring just the two singer-songwriters swapping songs played on acoustic guitars, they found that their musical connection is more than just a mutual appreciation for the same singers and songs.
PLANNING TO GO?
What: Dave Alvin & Jimmy Dale Gilmore
When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.
Tickets: $25 general admission