Dave Alvin with special guest Greg Leisz and Christy McWilson
Celebrates The 25th Anniversary of King of California
3025 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19104
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
Recorded in Los Angeles the day after the historic 1994 Northridge earthquake and produced by Greg Leisz, King of California had its genesis in the album’s title track, a readymade folk ballad, written for his mother, in which an aspiring suitor heads west to make his fortune in the wild, still-young Golden State. “’King of California’ is when I decided I would let the song tell me what it sounds like,” says Alvin. “Ever since then, that’s been my rule.”
Featuring acoustic interpretations of some of the finest songs in his catalog, along with new, folk-inflected compositions, and notable covers, Dave Alvin found the true measure of his own voice with King of California. “It was ironic that for a guy who was known as a loud guitar player and questionable singer, his best seller was an acoustic album,” says Alvin.
Included are songs written and originally recorded during the ‘80s like: “Barn Burning” from American Music (1980), “Bus Station” and “Leaving” from the Blasters’ Non Fiction (1983), “Little Honey,” written with X’s John Doe and featured on the Blasters Hard Line (1985), and the “Fourth of July,” which appeared on both X’s See How We Are (1997) and on Romeo’s Escape (1987). “Every Night About This Time” also appeared on the album.
Like the records he made as a member of the Blasters, King of California features a variety of covers, including Tom Russell’s’“Blue Wing,” Dallas singer-pianist Whistlin’ Alex Moore’s “West Texas Blues,” retitled “East Texas Blues,” Memphis Slim’s classic “Mother Earth,” and “What Am I Worth,” a George Jones song, featured here as a duet with the incomparable Syd Straw. The album also includes co-writes with Rosie Flores (“Goodbye Again”) and John Doe (“Little Honey”).
“I’m real proud of it twenty-five years later,” Alvin says. “The whole process was a revelation, to record with everybody in the studio sitting roughly in a circle. Sitting there on the edge of my chair with an acoustic guitar knowing that if I blow this chord we have to start over. And I could use my voice; when I was recording electric my voice couldn’t lead the band. In this situation I could. That allowed a certain openness and freedom I hadn’t experienced before. And for Greg, this was his baby, his chance to produce me and get my voice right. His calmness in all of this led to the vibe of the record.”
Christy was born into a family of musicians, spending her formative years near Downey, California. “I was close enough to Bakersfield to drive up and hear Merle Haggard once or twice, and was definitely, utterly, completely influenced by the LA sound of the 70s: Stone Poneys, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, and Poco.”
In 1990, Christy helped form the Picketts, who released three albums over the course of the 1990s. Led by McWilson on vocals, the band also included drummer Leroy "Blackie" Sleep and guitarists Scott McCaughey, John Olufs, and Jim Sangster. Steve Marcus was the original bassist (later Walt Singleman played bass).
The Picketts' first recording was a 7" single for the Seattle indie PopLlama Records that featured a country version of The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go”. Rather than play straight-ahead country, the Picketts mixed 1950s rockabilly and pop with more traditional influences, such as Wanda Jackson or Merle Haggard.
Paper Doll, their debut full-length, was released in 1992 through PopLlama. A showcase at the influential Austin music festival South by Southwest led to a deal with Rounder Records, who released The Wicked Picketts in 1995. Euphonium followed on Rounder in 1996.
As the Picketts were disbanding, longtime fan Dave Alvin approached Christy with an offer to produce her first solo album, The Lucky One, which contains mostly original songs, plus a cover of Brian Wilson’s “Til I Die”. The Lucky One was recorded with a core band that included Alvin, Peter Buck, and Rick Shea (guitars), Bob Glaub, Walter Singleman (bass), and Don Heffington (drums). Two years later, she called on many of these musicians to help put together her second solo album, Bed of Roses.
In 2015, Christy decided to release her "old new" album Desperate Girl, which was recorded in 2004 as her marriage dissolved. As she put it: “The songs, written in the weeks leading up to and during the marriage’s demise, were recorded in their full red-hot splendor. At the time it was so painful I shelved and tried to forget about it. I recently rediscovered it and realized I had an amazing portrait of that heightened time of my life.”
Christy’s most recent recording is Six by Three and her current band is: drummer Blackie Sleep, bassist Walt Singleman, Mark Notermann on electric guitar, and Jasper Tollefson, acoustic guitar.
She also regularly participates in the annual Roots on the Rails tour with Dave Alvin, John Doe, Cindy Cashdollar, Rick Shea, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Peter Case, Phil Alvin, Jon Langford, among others.
"And Christy's music, it's easy to listen to, full of carefully rendered language. Hell, it rocks, even. Thing is, it counts for something. The words count for something, and they take courage to sing, to embrace. Easy to listen to, yes; a good bit harder once heard carefully...."
Grant Alden, "No Depression"
“Singer Christy McWilson has one of the most classically beautiful country voices since Loretta Lynn.”
Peter Blackstock, "Rocket" magazine