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Location: Northeastern Michigan, where Carhartt is a Designer Label
Distribution: Slackware 32- & 64-bit Stable
Did you (1) as root run alsaconf (that automagically detects and configures the card) and then (2) alsactl store to save that in /etc/asound.state?
The other thing you do is, again as root, run alsamixer (after the above) and see what the volume control bars look like; at the lower left of the mixer display is IEC958 which should have "MM" in the box (switch it with the "m" key on your keyboard) and I just run all the volume controls up to about 75 (which is about where the green bar turns to red). After you fiddle with alsamixer, be sure to use alsactl save again.
Something really strange that happens for a completely unknown and unknowable reason is that applications that have volume controls (like, oh, RealPlayer, MPlayer, Flash and some others will kick-start the sound for some reason; start one of them up, get something playing and turn up their volume control and for who knows what reason you've all of a sudden got sound where none existed before -- weird but there you are.