Album Review of
From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings

Written by Joe Ross
April 29, 2021 - 12:14am EDT
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After its release in late 2020, this album caught my attention after seeing it in the top ten of The Roots Music Report’s Americana Country Chart for over six months. These 16 songs had been tracked for Alvin’s own releases, tribute albums, and for his sheer joy of making music. The roots music variety includes blues, ballads, folk, country rock and rockabilly. The former guitarist/songwriter for The Blasters in the early 1980s plays a variety of acoustic and electric guitars, as well as National steel guitar on a couple instrumentals (“Perdido Street Blues” and  “Krazy and Ignatz”) and even some piano on Chris Smither’s “Link of Chain.” Another instrumental, “Variations on Earl Hooker’s Guitar Rhumba,” reminds us that Alvin is one hell of a picker.

Alvin’s distinctive singing makes the album whole, and his effectiveness in any guise illustrates he’s equally comfortable with more reflective folk such as Bill Morrissey’s “Inside” and a reinvented haunting version of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” as he is with more traditional blues like Willie Dixon’s “Peace” and his rocking renditions of Link Davis’ “Albuquerque” and Doug Sahm’s “Dynamite Woman.” To provide mood changes among the varied tracks, we hear colorings of piano, accordion, harmonica, Dobro, pedal steel, and even some jaw harp over consistently solid, driving rhythm sections. It’s always nice to hear a songwriter sing some self-penned songs, and Alvin doesn’t disappoint with “Beautiful City 'Cross the River” and “Signal Hill Blues.” With its roots covers, originals and instrumentals, From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings is a powerful set revealing Alvin’s eclectic influences ... and his underlying passion of degrees, paced to tell stories and resonate with emotion.   (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)