Posts Tagged ‘Alejandro Escovedo’

Alejandro Escovedo has one of the most fascinating career paths in music and his upcoming album is another example of his singular vision. The Crossingdue out this September, is a suite of songs that chronicle the stories of two young immigrant rock and rollers, Salvo from Italy and Diego from Mexico, as they meet working in a Texas restaurant while each pursuing their vision of the American Dream.

The albums’s version of that dream is soundtracked by punk pioneers The Stooges and MC5 and populated by people who read both Mexican philosopher-poet Octavio Paz and the beat poets of the 1950’s. In fact, that’s very much the story of Alejandro Escovedo and this song cycle is a return to his punk roots as much as it is an exploration of the themes of cultural identity.

“Sonica USA” is the first single off the upcoming album and the track is a loud and boisterous reflection — featuring Wayne Kramer of MC5 on guitar on Escovedo’s youth growing up in Austin when he and his brother Javier played in a punk-before-it-was-punk band called The Zeros.

In the song, and in a quote released with the track, Escovedo insightfully positions Mexican American youth as a critical part of punk history.

“When we were playing as the True Believers early on [in the 1980’s] we’d play San Marcos, San Antonio and get all these Chicano kids in denim vests and Iron Maiden patches,” Escovedo says. “I remember thinking they were into us, not necessarily for the music, but for the fact we were there on stage. They loved that we were doing what we were doing.”

True to Escovedo’s nature, the upcoming album comes with a curious twist: It was recorded with Don Antonio, a group of young Italian rockers he recently toured Europe with as a backing band. He developed such a strong bond with the band leader, Antonio Gramentiere, that they ended up writing the songs for the album after riding around Texas soaking in the open landscape and eating both pasta and tacos.

The result is The Crossinga power collection of songs that may in fact be the most succinct statement of Alejandro Escovedo’s musical and personal story ever. “Sonica USA” only whets your appetite for what lies in store on the rest of the album.
The Crossing is due out on Sept. 14 via Yep Roc Records.

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Alejandro Escovedo

Despite the success of teaming up with legendary producer Tony Visconti and co-writer Chuck Prophet for his previous three studio releases, Americana icon (the Nuns, Rank & File, True Believers, solo) Alejandro Escovedo clearly felt it was time for a change. Out go Visconti and Prophet, in come Scott McCaughey (Minus 5) and Peter Buck (R.E.M.) to handle both producing and co-writing.

Those two likely helped Escovedo connect with this album’s other backing musicians. They include guitarist Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks), drummer John Moen (the Decemberists), baritone saxist Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and singers Kelly Hogan and Corin Tucker: an Americana supergroup of sorts. This results in a set that doesn’t forgo Escovedo’s influences (“Shave the Cat” borrows T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong” lick), but incorporates them subtly into reflective, introspective songs often musing on ageing and its effect on the rock and roll lifestyle. Titles such as “Sunday Morning Feeling,” “Redemption Blues,” “I Don’t Want to Play Guitar Anymore” and the (almost) closing “Farewell to the Good Times,” the latter with lyrics “there’s nothing left to believe in,” show where Escovedo’s mind is.

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There are plenty of ballads to reflect on , some with ghostly, moving backing vocals as on “Beauty and the Buzz” that add a cool, somewhat ghostly approach. But Escovedo rocks hard in the tough garage attack of “Luna De Miel,” the thumping, talk/sung Velvet Underground influenced aggression in “Beauty of Your Smile” and especially the call and response wah-wah guitar enhanced boogie of the booming opening “Horizontal.”

Even the acoustic based “Suit of Lights” (“look at me/a sailor with no compass lost at sea”) and the chiming, Byrds’ inflected, soulful “Sunday Morning Feeling” (“I’ve seen better days/I’ve got nothing left to say/but that’s alright”) display a dark, edgy intensity that permeates the entire program. Nowhere is that more evident than on the ominous, near nightmare-ish folk-noir with restrained guitar feedback “Redemption Blues,” (“someday I’ll find a little peace”) one of the most harrowing songs in his catalog and surely a highlight of this set. Escovedo always delivers, occasionally even spits out, his lyrics with passion, but he seems particularly inspired throughout the disc’s 12 selections (and a startling, mesmerizing bonus cut with erratic drums and spectral backing singing “Thought I’d Let You Know” not listed on the cover).

There are no weak tracks, proving that this collaboration with Buck & McCaughey provided the energy and creativity to help Escovedo’s 12th studio release be one of his finest, which is no small feat in his already exceptionally productive, creative and influential career.