Talk about synchronicity. Last September, roots rocker Dave Alvin had just finished a bluesy, Kentucky-themed shuffle called “Harlan County Line” when his phone rang.
It was a big fan of his, Graham Yost — the writer-producer of FX’s Harlan-County-set series “Justified” — wondering if he had any unreleased, show-appropriate material.
“It’s a rap I do onstage — ‘I’m a fourth-generation Californian, but I’m not a Hollywood guy,’” says the Downey-bred, ex-Blasters guitarist. “But every now and then, you get that Hollywood call. And that was one of them, right out of the blue.”
“Justified” — starring Timothy Olyphant as big-city U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, reluctantly reassigned to his crime-riddled Kentucky birthplace — wound up starring Alvin, as well.
“Harlan County Line” is track No. 1 on his new album, “Eleven Eleven,” which he’ll play in The City on Saturday.
But Yost liked it so much, he invited him to perform it live in a pivotal bar scene on the show. “And it all happened really quick,” says Alvin. “I cut it on a Wednesday, they had it on Thursday, by Friday they’d rewritten the scene to include me, and by the following Wednesday we’d filmed it. It was all bam, bam, bam!”
Unbeknownst to Alvin, Yost and company had retooled his segment, last-minute, to include namechecks. So when Givens enters the club, arguing with his girl, he says, “the final version has lines like ‘C’mon, honey, we’re here, we came to have fun – you know you love Dave Alvin!’ So I’m onstage, filming, but hearing this dialogue from across the bar, ‘Blah blah blah Dave Alvin,’ and I thought ‘They’ve rewritten the script?! What are they saying about me? ‘That Dave Alvin – he’s not as good as his brother!’”
Which is an in-joke reference to Alvin’s singing sibling Phil, who continued to front The Blasters long after family feuding led to Dave’s flying solo in 1986.
Dave is keeping the gag going on “Eleven,” via the roadhouse-rustic “What’s Up With Your Brother?” – a duet featuring Phil and old Blasters keyboardist Gene Taylor. These days, Alvin says, “my brother and I are pretty close. So it was fun, coming up with something that fits his voice again. But to write ten songs like that (for a Blasters reunion disc)? I don’t think I can.”
Alvin, 55 — who bonded with Olyphant over their mutual pal, “Deadwood” actor Ian McShane — felt so at home on the “Justified” set, he’s hoping for a season three encore. “And there’s been talk, but Hollywood talk is Hollywood talk,” he says. “In my experience, nothing is real until you cash the check.”
With Los Straitjackets
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (415) 885-0750; www.gamhtickets.com