Alejandro Escovedo 2024
Photo: Nancy Rankin Escovedo / Shore Fire Media

Alejandro Escovedo Reinvents, Reinterprets, and Rediscovers

On Echo Dancing, Alejandro Escovedo’s musical personality shines, from romantic balladeer to nefarious punk, from heartland messiah to experimental maven.

Echo Dancing
Alejandro Escovedo
Yep Roc
29 March 2024

The reason for releasing a Best Of album varies significantly from artist to artist, label to label. Sometimes, a “Best Of” album is a near-perfect representation of a band’s work, such as Queen’s Greatest Hits (1981). Some compilations are only issued so that artists can get out of a contract with a label, for instance, the Chaos and Disorder record from 1996 by Prince (or Artist Formerly Known as Prince at the time). And there’s always a “sell-out” release that completely misses the point, which goes against the artist’s intent and only serves as a cash grab, such as Nirvana’s Nirvana from 2002.

On Echo Dancing, Alejandro Escovedo celebrates his music but doesn’t limit himself to re-release the songs in their original format. Songs from his first solo record, Gravity (1992), through 2018’s The Crossing are represented, along with “John Conquest”, a song from his short-lived side-project Buick MacKane. “Outside Your Door” is a track from an album by yet another of his projects, the True Believers, initially scheduled for release in 1987 but ultimately shelved because the band was discarded by EMI-Manhattan Records. Instead, he reinterprets them with the help of two inestimable Italian musicians, Don Antonio (guitar, bass, organ, Mellotron, electronics) and Nicola Peruch (piano, organ, programming, etc).

To rank these interpretations as better or worse than the originals would be reductive and miss the point. Alejandro Escovedo aims to inject new life into the songs and present them differently. The musicians he works with on this release have a different approach to the songs than those featured in their original incarnation. Even though Peter Gabriel, Phill Collins, and Ray Wilson have vocalized “The Carpet Crawlers”, each vocalist’s unique articulation, range, and feel takes the same song into distinct directionsOn Echo Dancing, Escovedo integrates and balances every aspect of his musical personality, from romantic balladeer to nefarious punk, from heartland messiah to experimental maven.

The musician isn’t preoccupied with making these songs more palatable or commercial. As he stated in the press release for Echo Dancing, the songs are not static. They are ever-evolving entities, and there are seemingly endless possibilities when you go back and listen to the songs, reassess them, and try to find new ways of presenting them to an audience. As you evolve as an artist and gain experience, you can deconstruct a song and reassemble it again, with embellishments and sonic details, to make it challenging and appealing for the artist and the listener.

The production is detailed in Echo Dancing, with the clever use of samples and weird noises contributing to the record’s ominous feel. It’s remarkable to hear the effortless way he incorporates aspects of alternative, experimental, Americana, punk, country, indie rock, and electronic music into this potpourri of songs. It’s no wonder Bruce Springsteen loves Alejandro Escovedo’s music and has recorded a duet with him on “Faith”, from Escovedo’s Street Songs of Love (2010). “Faith” is a raucous rocker that presents the Boss in a combative mode, similar to what he did on the song “Disorder in the House” with Warren Zevon in 2003’s The Wind.

The recording period I appreciate the most from this incredible musician is his rock ‘n’ roll period, compromised by the releases Real Animal (2008), Street Songs of Love (2010), and Big Station from 2012. But that’s not to diminish Echo Dancing.

This release doesn’t serve as a mere collection of songs, a Best Of in the traditional sense. It presents a vital portrait of an ever-evolving artist who doesn’t limit himself to releasing a basic summation of his solo career and reimagining the songs. Echo Dancing could almost be considered a new album from Alejandro Escovedo. But for the sake of argument, let’s classify this as a celebration of a career that hopefully will continue for many years.

RATING 8 / 10