As the leader of the Blasters from 1979-1986, and then as a respected solo artist, Dave Alvin has been performing what's now called "Americana" music for decades, long before it had even a name. Not one to get stuck in a rut, Alvin debuts a new band on Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women, a counterpart of sorts to his Guilty Men. The group includes some of the Southwest's most talented female performers — Christy McWilson (formerly of the Picketts) on vocals, guitarist Nina Gerber, steel guitar player Cindy Cashdollar, violinists Amy Farris and Laurie Lewis, bassist Sarah Brown and drummer Lisa Pankratz. Of course, the album is merely magnificent. Alvin's singing has gotten smoother and more nuanced, the ladies play with the unity and gusto of a band as opposed to a gathering of musicians/hired guns, and there's plenty of variety: the swing of "Boss of the Blues," a Cajun take on the Blasters' staple "Marie Marie," a sublime country version of Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises." The songs are vivid slices-of-life, and the production earthy and no-frills. This is aces back to back. — Mark Keresman
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