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Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land

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Audio CD, August 15, 2000
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It took a near-death experience to reunite Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin, the California brothers at the heart of "roots heroes" (Rolling Stone) The Blasters.

"Phil died and was brought back to life over in Spain," Dave says of his brother's 2012 health scare. "That was a real wakeup call to me. We hadn't made a full album together since 1985, but as you get ... Read more in Amazon's Dave Alvin Store

Visit Amazon's Dave Alvin Store
for 33 albums, 12 photos, videos, and 3 full streaming songs.

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Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land + Blackjack David + Interstate City
Price for all three: $35.97

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 15, 2000)
  • Original Release Date: August 15, 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Shout Factory
  • ASIN: B00004UDE4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,523 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Shenandoah
2. Maggie Campbell
3. A Short Life Of Trouble
4. What Did The Deep Sea Say
5. Engine 143
6. Delia
7. Dark Eyes
8. Walk Right In
9. Murder Of The Lawson Family
10. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
11. Railroad Bill
12. Texas Rangers
13. Mama, Ain't Long For Day
14. East Virginia Blues
15. Sign Of Judgment
16. Bonus Track 1

Editorial Reviews

Product Description


While it is not unusual for renowned singer-songwriters to record other people's material--Shawn Colvin's Cover Girl and Elvis Costello's Kojak Variety come immediately to mind--the connection between the chosen material and the singer's own oeuvre is often tenuous. The concise simplicity and pithiness of Costello's choices seem more admired than emulated by the verbose composer, and we can all name tribute recordings that miss the point of the honored artist completely. That is why it is such a pleasure to witness Dave Alvin's obvious connection to the folk songs he has picked for Public Domain. Alvin's strength as a songwriter has always been his evocation of the same timeless themes of love, land, and death that make songs such as "Shenandoah," "Railroad Bill," and "Sign of Judgement" American classics. His work also shares those songs' ability to tell a story that finds the universal in the particular. Finally, his double-threat production and performance of these tunes in a manner both reverent and relevant clinch his place as one of the reigning royalty of roots rock. --Michael Ross

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Webster on August 23, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Over the years, this kind of record has been done by various artists, either as a stop-gap measure, or as a sincere way to get music which is important to the artist out. Coming on the heels of Blackjack David - clearly, Alvin's highpoint as a songwriter (in my mind, a true, top 100 all-time classic), one hopes he is gathering up his next slew of killers as we speak. But, darn it, this record is astounding! Alvin's voice grows richer with each release, the productions cleaner, the band sharper. There are songs which are nothing short of beautiful. Dylan (a personal god), released two folk covers records in the relatively recent past which simply do not hold a candle to this work. Can't think of higher praise than that. The recent John Prine covers collection is terrific, with a great theme, and execution, but still, this is the snazz. If Alvin's next three or four releases are up to the standard of his last three or four, Alvin can step right up there with the Dylans, Youngs, and Woody Guthries of the world and stake his claim!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Frederick Rudofsky on August 17, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Prolific American Music maker DAve Alvin follows up 1998's gem BLACKJACK DAVID with a 15 track album (actually, 16-- there's a bonus hidden track) of traditional songs, some of which probably go back 150 years. But Alvin and his band The Guilty Men (along with guests Brantley Kearns, DAvid Jackson, Juke Logan, and Greg Liesz) show their reverence with gusto and put these songs-- some whose authors are unknown-- right in the listener's heart. "Shenandoah" opens almost as a prayer and makes one think of Alvin's own "Kern River" or "Andersonville" in its longing and tone. Mixing in ballads and rockers with wonderfully energetic arrangements and interplay among the musicians, Alvin reveals the wanderlust of the USA is what distinguishes its culture from all others. "What Did the Deep Blue Sea Say?", "Delia," and Blind Willie McTell's "Ain't Long for the Day", poignant "Sign of Judgement" are among the standout cuts. Dave Alvin fans, and fans of roots music and the American story itself, make yourselves welcome to PUBLIC DOMAIN.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Standiford VINE VOICE on August 24, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I've been a Dave Alvin fan for years and believe that his two biggest strengths are as a songwriter and as a live performer. As a songwriter, there are few who come close to his ability to tell a story, make it relevant and put it to compelling music. As a live performer, he can keep you transfixed for over two hours as he plays what he describes as folk music -- both quiet and loud.
Now comes a new album that at first listen doesn't appear to take advantage of his strengths. None of these songs were written by him, and you wonder whether some of these songs will work live with his band the Guilty Men.
I've now listened to the CD a number of times and I just saw Dave perform live. The fact of the matter is that it's a wonderful CD although it might be hard to warm to the first few times you hear it. However, the arrangements are fascinating and the level of muscianship by Dave and band members Rick Shea, Brantley Kerns and John "Juke" Logan will amaze you. More importantly the album reveals the influences that have shaped Dave Alvin as a songwriter. You can sense that these songs have been somewhat responsible for his brilliance as a songwriter and storyteller. We should also be thankful that he has breathed new life into a very important part of this nation's musical history through this new recording of these old standards.
Finally, the live show. Dave has incorporated a number of songs from the album into the Guilty Men's reportiore. Fiddler Brantley Kerns, who used to play with Dwight Yoakam is now part of the band.
My bottom line recommendation is buy this album. buy Interstate City, Blackjack David and King of California and make sure to see him live!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steve Vrana HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 3, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Since his days with the Blasters, Dave Alvin has developed into a powerful songwriter. With that said, it struck me as odd that he would do an entire album of non-originals. Any misgivings I had disappeared as soon as I heard the first track. Alvin's mournful vocal is the perfect instrument for "Shenandoah." The somber tone of the opening track prevails through most of the selections, but there are a handful of uptempo songs, like "Maggie Campbell," "What Did the Deep Sea Say," "Walk Right In" and "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down." More representative of the album, however, are tracks like "A Short Life of Trouble," "Engine 143" and "Murder of the Lawson Family." These are honest songs of sorrow and grief and (sometimes) even joy, but one is also left with a sense of hope. As Alvin says in his liner notes, "A lot of what is good, and bad, about us is in these songs." Even when listening to the bleakest of these songs, there is still a strand of optimism that runs through this album, a testament to the human spirit. These are songs that will be with us a hundred years from now long after the current flavors of the month have vanished from the public's memory. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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Public Domain: Songs From the Wild Land
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