In all the conversations I’ve had with Alejandro Escovedo over the years, from his days in the Nuns to the True Believers and more recently after his “Artist of the Decade” award from No Depression magazine, I’m always struck by his candor, wit and honesty. He listens well, speaks with passion and never tries to bully you into anything.
Only thing is, I’ve never spoken to Alejandro Escovedo. But such is the power of his music, the strength of his vision, and his raw, pulsing heart that he displays in each word and strum, it’s these things that make me feel as if he and I are old friends, talking quietly over beers. Or in the case of a song like “Castanets”, getting a little rowdy with something harder, watching his girl walk away.
His history is well known. From a rich musical background (Coke and Shelia E. are kin), he formed the Nuns, who opened for the Sex Pistols last show, then onto Rank and File and finally the True Believers, with a side trip into garageland with Buick MacKane. All along Escovedo has relied on his stock in trade country-influenced rock, playing the riffs that Keith Richards hasn’t been able to in 20 years, with lyrics that haven’t been as basic and effecting since Gram Parsons became a bonfire in the Joshua Tree park.
His latest release, A Man Under the Influence, his third for Bloodshot, is far and away his best work. Magnificent songwriting, responsive musicians and a great, breathing production compliments of former db Chris Stamey makes this an early contender for album of the year. Ranging from the heartbreak of “Don’t Need You” to the gorgeous “Rhapsody”, Escovedo sounds so in control of his art that he makes most others who even try sound lackluster. Give this release a spin and have a conversation with one of the greats. Who also is a great friend.