Hoopla

Musical duo pooling talents for Iowa Arts Festival concert

Tim Reese Photography

Dave Alvin (left) and Jimmie Dale Gilmore will headline the Iowa Arts Festival's free concert lineup Saturday night (6/1) in downtown Iowa City. They will be performing with The Guilty Ones at 9 p.m.
Tim Reese Photography Dave Alvin (left) and Jimmie Dale Gilmore will headline the Iowa Arts Festival's free concert lineup Saturday night (6/1) in downtown Iowa City. They will be performing with The Guilty Ones at 9 p.m.
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Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore don’t seem like a match on paper.

Alvin is an edgy, underrated singer/songwriter from the Southern California roots rockers the Blasters, who also spent some time with seminal Los Angeles punk rockers X. Gilmore is a gifted hippie singer/songwriter, who was part of the under-the-radar country act The Flatlanders.

Both have made a number of acclaimed independent solo albums.

“We each have a cult following,” Alvin said by phone from Los Angeles. “Jimmie and I wouldn’t be filed in the same category when it comes to genre, but we’ve had similar careers. Neither of us have been at the top of the charts.”

They’ll be at the top of Iowa Arts Festival, headlining the free main stage concert lineup at 9 p.m. Saturday (6/1).

Alvin, 63, and Gilmore, 74, have had minor hits. Alvin turned some ears with the well-constructed “Marie Marie.” Gilmore is known for his clever and catchy tip of the cowboy hat to one of his favorite Texas cities with “Dallas.”

The tandem have had lengthy careers as working musicians.

“That’s an accomplishment in its own right,” Alvin said. “I love that this has been my job ever since I was a young man. It’s the same story for Jimmie. We both get to do what we love.”

Alvin was the primary songwriter of the Blasters and he penned a couple of fine X songs, including the hook-laden but quirky “Fourth of July.” Alvin also has a dozen solo albums to his credit.

“I love to write songs, and I enjoy writing poetry,” he said. “I’ve written a few songs that will still be played after I’m dead and gone. I hope to write some more songs that will stand the test of time. I think I have some good songs left in me.”

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After forming The Flatlanders with Joe Ely and Butch Hancock during the early ’70s, Gilmore became a solo artist during the late ’80s. The laid-back Gilmore has a loyal fan base and three Grammy nominations.

Alvin, a fine guitarist, and Gilmore have been friends for three decades, but didn’t collaborate until 2017 when the pair decided to tour.

“After a few shows it was obvious that we needed to do something more,” Alvin said.

The tandem created “Downey to Lubbock,” a nod to where each were raised.

“I’m a California guy and Jimmie is from Texas, and it works,” Alvin said. “We have a certain connection.”

“Downey to Lubbock” is an amalgam of blues, rock ’n’ roll and western swing. The album contains covers and a couple of originals.

“Jimmie and I should have done this a long time ago,” Alvin said. “He is one of the nicest and most easygoing people you’ll ever meet. We just went out and made a fun album. ‘Downey to Lubbock’ was a total labor of love. We discovered that we’re fond of a lot of the same songs.”

The album’s centerpiece is “Billy the Kid and Geronimo,” a moving duet written by Alvin, who sings the part of Billy the Kid.

“It was a natural for us,” he said. “Jimmie sings the part of Geronimo. He has Apache blood and I was a kid once, so I thought it would work. I didn’t know how good the song was going to be until Jimmie sang the first line. After I heard that, I was like, ‘Man this is going to be really good.’ What I love about “Billy the Kid and Geronimo” — and the rest of the album — is that it’s completely organic. You learn a bit about us through song.”

That’s particularly so with the title track, which traces Alvin and Gilmore’s origins.

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“That song was written from the heart,” Alvin said. “That was a fun one to write.”

They also cover songs by John Stewart, Chris Gaffney and Woody Guthrie.

“We wanted to sing some of our favorite songs written by some songwriters who we enjoy,” Alvin said. “We didn’t expect much of a reaction to our album. It was a nice surprise that so many people are really into what we’ve done together. It’s really cool when you make an album that comes out of left field and people support it.”

Alvin is content as he ages. After his brother and Blasters collaborator Phil Alvin almost died in 2012, the pair patched up their relationship and started working together again.

“We realized that maybe we’re not immortal, and we worked things out,” Alvin said.

Alvin and Gilmore deliver colorful and often amusing anecdotes during their concerts.

“We both have a lot to draw from,” Alvin said. “Jimmie and I have seen it all. The crowd seems to enjoy (their banter) and I know we love it.”

Get Out

 

WHAT: Iowa Arts Festival

WHERE: Downtown Iowa City; Clinton to Linn streets between Iowa Avenue and Washington Street, extending along Ped Mall

WHEN: 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday (5/31), 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday (6/1), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (6/2)

FEATURES: Carnival Parade through downtown 5:30 p.m. Friday (5/31); more than 110 local and national visual artists; Emerging Artist Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday; music; food vendors; kids’ activities

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MAIN STAGE: Corner of Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue; headliners Friday: (5/31) Winterland 7 p.m., Solera Quartet “Dark Side of the Moon” 9 p.m.; Saturday: William Elliott Whitmore 7 p.m., Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore with The Guilty Ones 9 p.m. Sunday (6/2): Jeff Austin Band 2:45 p.m.

ADMISSION: Free

DETAILS: Summerofthearts.org/sota-events/iowa-arts-festival/

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