Terrell’s Tuneup: GUILT COMPLEX
A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 14, 2009
After the death of his best friend, accordion player Chris Gaffney, who died of liver cancer last year, Dave Alvin disbanded his group The Guilty Men. Asked by the organizers of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco to try “something different” for his performance there last year, Alvin rounded up a bevy of the most respected female performers in contemporary roots music.
These included steel-guitar player Cindy Cashdollar (who has played with Asleep at the Wheel, Ryan Adams, Bob Dylan, and others), guitarist Nina Gerber, fiddler and mandolin player Laurie Lewis, fiddler Amy Farris, drummer Lisa Pankratz (who’s played with Cornell Hurd, Sleepy LaBeef, Billy Joe Shaver, etc.), bassist Sarah Brown, and singer Christy McWilson.
Thus was born The Guilty Women.
Apparently the festival performance was successful. The gig led to an album, Dave Alvin and The Guilty Women, and a tour, which is stopping at the Santa Fe Brewing Company on Saturday, Aug. 15.
Alvin has conflicted feelings about Carpenter, who died in 1983 as a result of complications from anorexia. Her “sweet suburban songs” don’t do much for him musically. “I never liked her music, never saw her hangin’ ’round/And I never said nothin’ when people put her down,” Alvin sings. But he realizes he feels a connection. “But now that I’m older I can understand her pain/And I can feel a little pride when people say her name.”
One of the only problems with the album is that there are a few too many slow, folkie tunes. Years ago, Alvin said that there are two types of folk songs: quiet and loud. “I play both,” he bragged.
* Also worth checking out: Alvin produced and played on a tribute to Chris Gaffney called Man of Somebody’s Dreams. It’s got some good covers of Gaffney tunes by Joe Ely, Los Lobos, Robbie Fulks, Peter Case, Big Sandy with Los Straitjackets, John Doe, James McMurtry, and others. And it’s got the last song Gaffney ever recorded, “The Guitars of My Dead Friends.” Google “Chris Gaffney” and “Yep Roc.” It’ll take you there.
* Big dose of Dave: I’ll play a 30-minute Dave Alvin segment, featuring an overview of his fine career, Friday night on The Santa Fe Opry on KSFR-FM 101.1 and streaming live at ksfr.org. (I lied. It turned out to be a 60-minute set)
The Opry starts at 10 p.m.; the Alvin set will start shortly after 11 p.m. And don’t forget Terrell’s Sound World, free-form weirdo radio, same time, same station, on Sunday nights.