Music

Alejandro Escovedo: Big Station

The latest release from one of Austin, Texas' favorite sons finds him furthering his partnership with Tony Visconti and Chuck Prophet and expanding upon his varying influences.


Alejandro Escovedo

Big Station

Label: Fantasy/Concord
US Release Date: 2012-06-05
UK Release Date: 2012-06-04
Label website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Popular recognition has come later in life for Alejandro Escovedo. A true rock and roll veteran, Escovedo has built a long and steadily respected solo career that rose out of stints in '70's punk-rock outfit The Nuns and '80's roots revivalists True Believers. Drawing from his wealth of influences and experiences, he has released ten top-notch albums since 1992, each one showcasing varying musical arrangements and divergent stylistic tendencies that envelop the always first-rate songwriting. Escovedo's stock has been gaining momentum with each recent release, as luminaries like Bruce Springsteen have collaborated with and championed his cause. Escovedo has also found two kindred spirits in producer Tony Visconti and fellow songwriter Chuck Prophet with which to partner in recent years. Big Station marks their third joint effort in a row, following Real Animal and Street Songs of Love and this one continues the trio's shared appreciation of glam-rock homages, shimmering harmonies, and melancholy yearning.

The beauty of Escovedo's work is its versatility. He is able to pull off many guises at once and this is well evident throughout Big Station. He's convincing as a well-traveled troubadour with a bit of a chip on his shoulder: bringing authentically lived-in intensity to the rollicking album opener, "Man of the World", sheepish ruminations on the common dualities of life to the ska-tinged strains of "Common Mistake", and a cuttingly sincere old-man edge to "Party People", where he tosses old attitudes of time well spent out the window and declares his intentions of finding happiness in more age-appropriate pursuits. A menacing tone permeates throughout the album's lyrics, as Escovedo rages hard in "Too Many Tears" and brilliantly narrates a film-like chapter of life in "Headstrong Crazy Fools".

Now for a complaint: As good as Escovedo is with these anthemic declarations of rock and roll power, he is just as good as a solitary confessional figure or ace storyteller and these are areas that his recent releases could use a bit more of. The haunting narrative of "Sally Was A Cop", which tells the tale of a Mexican border town woman forced to join the violent drug wars (and interestingly bears a beat strikingly similar to Drive-By Truckers' recent highlight "Used To Be A Cop") and the plaintive longing of "San Antonio Rain" are prime examples of the production values suiting the song. Too often on Big Station the production goes for a large sound. There are a lot of female backing vocals and snappy syncopated beats scattered throughout the production, which have Visconti's and Prophet's fingerprints all over them as the styling mirrors their prior work more than it does Escovedo's. While it also suits Escovedo well, it dulls some of the edges and pushes aside the country-tinged melancholia of a lot of his profound earlier work. Some of his best live performances came simply from the quietly intimate intensity generated from an acoustic guitar, pedal steel, and violin. These instruments are largely absent on the Visconti and Prophet collaborations. They sell Escovedo a little short and shoestring him into one similar style for too much of the album.

This may be picking a little too much at the details though, as it's still a fine listen, and Escovedo is notorious for following a certain sound from album to album. The most recent three have gotten a bit too similar though, and the time may have arrived for a more stripped-down and unfiltered sound. As actively as Escovedo has been running the past few years, there will surely be more releases headed our way. Here's hoping he strips it down a bit and brings a little more personal identification back to future affairs.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image