Dave Alvin’s THE BEST OF THE HIGHTONE YEARS is the stark, lonesome soundtrack to a desert roadtrip of the mind’s eye. Put it on, and the slide guitars, folk rhythms and nuanced lyrics will have a listener in a classic Cadillac, nursing a broken heart, somewhere between the Inland Empire and the Texas panhandle, staring down a dusty ribbon of empty highway that stretches into the horizon.

What Alvin, an original member of the legendary Blasters, does brilliantly in his solo work is imbue the century-old country blues that obviously inspire him with the dexterous songwriting of a honed craftsman. In track after track, on songs such as “Dry River”, “King of California” and “Fourth of July”, Alvin uses a specific, blue-collar Los Angeles that is never mentioned in US Weekly and a metaphor for loneliness and longshots, giving transitory, sometimes frivolous Los Angeles a touch of pathos and, perhaps, stoic dignity.

Pick up this release if you want to hear what Country radio would sound like if they gave a damn. Dave Alvin expressed a desire to mix “blues, folk, rock and roll, R&B and country”, grow as a musician and not be messed with too much. By the sound of it -- mission accomplished!

THE BEST OF THE HIGHTONE YEARS culls from a decade of Alvin’s output: 1990-2000. It offers a solid overview of albums in this period, as well as some surprises: an amazing unreleased studio various of “Dry River”, an original blues tune, “Dixie Highway Blues” and a few rarities, such as a duet with Katy Moffatt. As with any collection, THE BEST OF THE HIGHTONE YEARS faces the conflicting tasks of appealing to neophytes and purists, both. It speaks to the continuing quality of SHOUT! Factory packages that it succeeds so well. Both “newbies” and longtime fans should wear this one out.

THE BEST OF THE HIGHTONE YEARS hits shelves October 28th.

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