Living Blues (9-10/02, p.41) - "...Mesmerising...he takes the listener on a journey to the essence of the blues..."
Solo performer: Alvin Youngblood Hart (vocals, guitar, dobro, mandolin).
Includes liner notes by Robert Gordon, Billy Gibbons & Dave Alvin.
DOWN IN THE ALLEY was nominated for the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Blues Album.
Personnel: Alvin Youngblood Hart (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin).
Audio Mixers: David Less; Jim Dickinson.
Liner Note Authors: Dave Alvin; Robert Gordon; Billy Gibbons.
Recording information: Archer Records Studio (2001-11-17&2001-11-21&2001-).
Photographer: Rick Ivy.
Hart does a 180 after the husky, power trio/space/R&B/rock of 2000's Start With the Soul by spinning out a dozen blues covers in a solo acoustic setting. On his fourth album (for his fourth label), the contemporary bluesman sounds inspired and refreshed as he accompanies himself on acoustic six-string guitar, banjo, and mandolin. The production is from Memphis cult hero Jim Dickinson, who doesn't have a chance to do much other than provide inspiration in this sparse setting. Hart runs down fairly obscure tunes from Son House, Charley Patton, Leadbelly, Skip James, and Sleepy John Estes, infusing them with a jolt of energy while staying true to their original versions and invigorating them with inspired interpretations. Hart's voice is magnificent throughout -- yowling, moaning, doleful, yet proud as he pays tribute to the Delta and country blues masters. Even the well-worn traditional "Motherless Child" sounds fresh in this context. Eschewing the diverse -- some claim overly diverse -- approach of his previous few releases, Hart sticks to basics here. He keeps the tone spare, naked, and dry, which best fits the somber mood, especially on his high-lonesome banjo interpretation of Odetta's "Chilly Winds." Recorded in just three days, this return to the artist's country blues roots is at turns harrowing, haunting, and uplifting, just like the originals. Those who found the Thin Lizzy-edged rock attack of his last release too far removed from Hart's earlier rootsy approach will rejoice in this unvarnished, stripped-down, deep blues release. ~ Hal Horowitz