[29 April 2011]
At 60, Alejandro Escovedo is rocking like he did when he was a kid, playing in punk bands such as the Nuns, Rank & File and the True Believers.
After years of layering his albums with cellos, violins and elaborate soul-searching, the Austin, Texas, singer and guitarist cut away every frill on last year’s “Street Songs of Love.” It’s straightforward and healing, a change of pace from the complexities of 2003’s “By the Hand of the Father” (which deals with Escovedo’s recovery from hepatitis C) and 2006’s hyperpersonal “The Boxing Mirror.”
He chatted by phone from a Louisville, Ky., tour stop.
Q. Bruce Springsteen sings on “Street Songs of Love,” and, listening to the album, I’m reminded of something he said about “The Rising” — that he rediscovered his “rock voice.” Does that fit what you were thinking?
A. It began with “Real Animal,” actually. Reflecting on where I had come from, I suddenly discovered why I was there in the first place. Maybe that’s what Springsteen is talking about. It’s about getting back to the essence, whatever that embryonic stage is when you first start hearing those rock ‘n’ roll songs. It was a very sort of primitive and minimalist style that I was drawn to, and it’s about rolling around in it and getting it back into your skin.
Q. What was easy and hard about stripping these songs down to their essence?
A. It’s funny, because rock ‘n’ roll — it’s not easy to play it right. It seems like it’s really simple, but it’s really quite difficult to get there, and it requires people to let go of a lot of stuff they’ve learned in the past. Some people will say it’s kind of “dumbing down,” but it’s not that. Springsteen told me something interesting — “Every time the E Street Band goes out, we’re 16 years old again.” That’s what we’re going for. It’s that feeling of liberation.
Q. How is your health?
A. Well, I still have hepatitis, but I’ve learned to manage it. I’ve been rather lucky, you know. ... Rest is extremely important. Eating well is extremely important. Neither of which is easy to do on the road — exercise and things like that. But I’m in pretty good shape. I feel good.