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Podcast Survivor: WTF #321 – Dave Alvin

This is the first installment of regular reviews of podcast episodes I’ve listened to. Many will be of recent episodes, but occasionally I’ll review something older. I decided to take this on because reviews of podcasts in general are rare, with even iTunes only really encouraging reviews of whole series.

The selection of podcasts reviewed is entirely idiosyncratic and based on what I choose to listen to. I promise no attempt to be complete. But if there’s a podcast you’d like to see reviewed, let us know in the comments. Or, even better, if you would like to review podcasts, drop us a line. Now, on to my first review…

WTF with Marc MaronWTF with Marc Maron #321 – Dave Alvin
Rating: 4/5

I almost didn’t listen to this episode, #321. I know who musician Dave Alvin is, and I know a little about his former band, The Blasters. But since I’m not a particular fan of his style of roots rock, I considered passing it by. However, I’ve learned that most of the time with WTF I’m better off taking the chance to listen anyway. This episode did not disappoint.

Alvin begins the interview asking if it’s OK for him to smoke, and Maron–himself a former smoker–gives him the go-ahead. That seems to immediately relax Alvin, who shows a comfortable rapport with Maron as he relates his personal history of how he became a musician and formed a band on the cusp of deciding to become union laborer on the slag heap in rural Southern California.

Alvin relates the influence of his union organizer father who took him and him and his brother around from plant to plant. The strong working class politics and music are clearly dear to Alvin and are a core aspect of the man and his music. But he relates these stories and feelings with carefully chosen, but plainspoken words that come across as sincere, considered and experienced rather than polemical.

I also learned that The Blasters played alongside all varieties of punk and more rootsy bands on the LA scene in the 80s. Even though their music wasn’t particularly punk on the surface, the speed, economy and conviction of the band’s approach made it compatible with the punk ethos.

Listening to this episode made me go onto Spotify to listen to some Blasters. While I can see the appeal, I didn’t take to it much more than ever before. Nevertheless, this episode is a recommended listen whether you’re into The Blasters and Dave Alvin, or not.

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