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Alvin Youngblood Hart - Down In The Alley

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Quick Overview

Down In The Alley is a passionate and powerful statement of African American musical identity.

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While “his reputation precedes him” is a bit of a cliché, it completely applies in the circumstance of Alvin Youngblood Hart. Hart has become a major force in both contemporary and traditional music with a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. Hart recorded Down In The Alley, his first release for Memphis International, in November of 2001. The album, a solo acoustic country blues and proto-blues tour de force, was produced by Jim Dickinson (Ry Cooder, The Replacements, Rolling Stones, Big Star) and Memphis International co-founder David Less and includes notes by Muddy Waters biographer Robert Gordon with additional commentary by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Blasters’ founder Dave Alvin.

Highlighting songs associated with the very root of the blues as performed early last century by Charlie Patton, The Mississippi Sheiks, Sleepy John Estes and others; Down In The Alley is a passionate and powerful statement of African American musical identity. Hart comments, “many of these songs were ones I’ve been doing over the years, including a few I haven’t performed for a while. It was a challenge for everybody to see if we could make this record on the fly.” Shaped by influences ranging from Leadbelly to Frank Zappa, he is, at once, a powerful emotive vocalist, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and musical scholar.

The album is a glimpse back in time with Hart accompanying himself on a variety of stringed treasures that he has restored over the years. “When I started getting into those old records, I wanted to know more about the instruments they were playing,” Hart recalls. Through diligent research including examining old photographs and speaking to eyewitnesses, he was able to determine how his blues forebears accompanied themselves. “I discovered some of those instruments but most were in disrepair. It was a case of ‘if you want to play ‘em, you gotta know how to fix ‘em.’”

The instruments played (and repaired) by Hart heard on the album include a Bruno 5-sting banjo from the 1920’s, a 12-string Stella guitar made in 1915, a 1928 National Triolian resonator guitar, a mid-1930’s Regal Resonator, a Stella 6-string from the 1930’s and a late 1940’s Harmony mandolin.

Winner of the 1997 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Artist, Hart had been honing his craft since childhood. Completely self-taught, he began playing the guitar in earnest at age 14, inspired by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Link Wray and Jimi Hendrix.

Born in Oakland, California, Hart moved around the country with his family wherever there was work to be found - Southern California, Ohio, and Illinois. Along the way, he listened to music wherever he could find it, his parents' records, the radio or on Chicago's famed Maxwell Street, where he hung out with grizzled blues vets. But the most lasting impressions of his youth came from frequent trips to his grandmother's home in the hill country of northern Mississippi where bloodlines on both sides of his family run back for generations. Those excursions to Mississippi led him to a deep appreciation of his acoustic blues antecedents --- Charlie Patton, Leadbelly, Bukka White, Blind Willie McTell, Skip James and others. He ultimately turned full time to performing "unplugged" long before it became a marketing strategy.

Alvin has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has appeared on national tours including The Further Festival and House of Blues Presents, sat in on electric guitar with The Allman Brothers Band, and supported musicians ranging from Neil Young, Los Lobos, Richard Thompson and Ben Harper to blues greats John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy and Gatemouth Brown. In addition to headlining his own club dates, Alvin has played major festivals throughout the world from Australia to Norway.

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Additional Info

Catalog Number MIR2002
Release Date Nov 23, 2015
Artist Alvin Youngblood Hart
Record Label Memphis International Records
Music Genre Blues
Explicit Content No
Format CD
Number of Discs 1
Box Lot Quantity 30
Track List
  1. Jungle Bouche
  2. How Long Before I Change My Clothes
  3. Deep Blue Sea
  4. Jinx Blues
  5. Bootlegger's Blues
  6. Alberta
  7. Broke And Hungry
  8. Devil Got My Woman
  9. Chilly Winds
  10. Tom Rushen Blues
  11. Please Baby
  12. Motherless Child

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