I am very excited to congratulate Dave and Phil on their Grammy nomination for their album Common Ground (Yep Roc) in the Best Blues Album category. I'm so happy to have photographed them for this project! Read on for more of my experiences working with them, and about my getting to know and photograph Dave over the years.
When I first saw guitarist / singer / songwriter / poet Dave Alvin at the (cramped / hot) King King Club on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, I was (of course) totally bowled over and I resolved to work with him.
Somehow, incredibly, my naiveté paid off!
I'd photograph his shows, go home, develop the film (yes, film) and then print my favorite images in the darkroom (yes, darkroom). Then I'd bring the images to the next show hoping to show the prints to him.
Not so easy! The third time was the charm though, and in the dark, cramped club Dave took a look at my images and... LOVED them - One of the photographs became the cover of his second solo release "Blue Blvd".
Various sessions for publicity (and just for fun) followed. Above left is a proof sheet from a truck stop shoot in Wilmington, CA (gotta love the Hasselbad!) and above right is an image from one of our early sessions shot in the LA River in Downey.
Did someone say LA River? Yes kids, the river existed as a gorgeous (and photogenic) existential wasteland decades before it was crowned a place to be for hipsters and luxury condo developers. Link above or here to see some of my images of the LA river at that time.
After "Blue Blvd" came shooting the cover art for "Museum of Heart" (below), which was a proper photo session that we set up at the Alligator Lounge, home to all forms of experimental music from Nels Cline to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.
In addition to his solo work, Dave also was involved in various collaborations with other artists such as The Knitters, Chris Gaffney (an amazing guy, gone too soon), Ramblin' Jack Elliot, The Pleasure Barons, and X (among many others).
The next year came the "King of California" album (photo below) and, of course, amazing stories to go with it....
Let's just nickname it "Adventures in central California", replete with amazing scenery during the drive (that was the good part) and thoroughly inedible "food" served by an angry one-armed man and his mail-order bride in Maricopa - pop 900, a town with one traffic signal and probably more meth than you could ever want, if scoring drugs was your thing.... But really, what can one expect from the sole diner in Maricopa where we were the only customers? (This was where our mutual friend almost got us shot by loudly insulting the food and proprietor - that was the not-so-good part)
We got great images though!
It is amazing to think of how much more chilled out access and pretty much everything related to a music photo shoot was back then. No armies of publicists and "brand specialists" buzzing around, somehow draining the life out of every encounter. Truth!
Fast forward...err, a few years and Dave and I ran into each other at a (better) diner in Silver Lake, and it was like "Hey! We should work together again. Those were some fun times!" And so I was lucky enough to photograph his "Eleven Eleven" release - Dave's eleventh album, released in 2011.
The covers of both "King of California", designed by Stephen Walker and "Eleven Eleven", designed by Michael Triplett at Yep Rock are personal favorites of mine.
Which brings us to "Common Ground", a selection of Big Bill Broonzy covers and Dave's first album with his brother Phil in many years.
It was a real thrill to see Dave and Phil together in the studio recording the album (This album was produced, recorded and mixed by Craig Parker Adams, who also worked on Eleven Eleven, and this album brought us to the LA River yet again...
Dave is still the hardest working guy in show business, but has gone from a somewhat gruff, resolutely single guy to a slightly-less gruff guy, crazy in love with his girlfriend, and a lover of cats (never would have seen that coming!) And a Grammy award under his belt too.
But I digress :)