Alejandro Escovedo’s career is most pithily summed up by the title of his 1998 live album, More Miles than Money. The Texas-born son of Mexican immigrants, Escovedo has been cranking out beautiful, challenging, genre-bending work since he helped form one of San Francisco’s first punk bands, the Nuns, back in the mid-1970s (the Nuns opened for the Sex Pistols on the last show of their legendarily doomed 1978 American tour).
After leaving the Nuns, in the early ’80s Escovedo moved to Austin, Texas, where he ended up in two ultimately influential bands: Rank and File, who were mining lodes of “alternative country” before the term even existed, and the True Believers, a rock ‘n’ roll outfit formed with Alejandro’s brother, Javier.
From approximately 1992 to 2002, Escovedo really hit his stride as a solo artist, releasing a string of inventive albums, including Gravity, Thirteen Years, With These Hands, More Miles than Money (Live, 1994-1996), Bourbonitis Blues, A Man Under the Influence, and By the Hand of the Father. During this period, he also formed a group called Buick MacKane (from an old T-Rex tune), whose punkier sound echoed his work with the Nuns. In the midst of all this activity, Escovedo was named “Artist of the Decade” by No Depression magazine, a leading chronicle of Americana music.
During much of this fertile period, he recorded and toured with a band featuring somewhat unusual instrumentation: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums (sometimes) and a 3-5 piece string section featuring violins and cellos. The strings often added a sublime orchestral feel, but were also called upon to rock with abandon. As the Onion AV Club wrote in their review of the afore-mentioned More Miles Than Money live collection, “How many bands would dare perform The Stooges’ slop-rock masterpiece ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ as a string-annexed chamber-rock sextet? This is beautiful, wonderful stuff.”
A personal favorite from this era is the album With These Hands, whose opening track, “Put You Down,” features a propulsive yet melodic bass line and a string-based crescendo (see video below). “Slip” and Pissed Off 2am” are two other songs from this record that became staples of his live shows.
Suggested demo song:
New album just released: The Crossing
Despite acquiring such fans as Bruce Springsteen and REM’s Peter Buck, who played on his 2016 album Burn Something Beautiful, Alejandro has labored in relative obscurity over the years. So it’s nice to see that his latest offering, The Crossing, has been met with an outpouring of positive reviews from Rolling Stone, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Washington Post and more.
Here’s an excerpt from the NPR story:
The Crossing is possibly his finest recorded work yet.
It is a sweeping chronicle of two young men who come to the U.S. looking for America in the sounds of rock and roll. One is from Italy, the other from Mexico, they start their teenage adventure in Texas. Along the way, they discover things about themselves and about this country that slightly change their perceptions and understandings of things.
That is the story in a nutshell, but the beauty of Alejandro Escovedo’s art is in the literate storytelling that is implicitly wedded to a sonic tapestry that stuns. There is a moment of grace that opens the album, an orchestrated meditation that leads into tales of cowboys with holes in their luck, boys who lose their innocence and references to beat philosopher Jack Kerouac and Mexican philosopher Octavio Paz — all in the same song! [Read full article here]
The Crossing features appearances by some of Alejandro’s musical heroes, including Wayne Kramer form the MC5 and legendary Texas rocker Joe Ely. “Sonica A,” the first song released from the album, features blistering guitar work that is an homage of sorts to Escovedo’s ’70s roots…
Suggested demo song:
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