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Thursday, March 13 • 10:45pm - 11:15pm
Alejandro Escovedo

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“What does it take to make this man a star?” ponders Rolling Stone critical sage David Fricke of Alejandro Escovedo. The notion both humbles Escovedo and makes him chuckle. “Hey, I’d be happy to just make a good living, and be able to make records and go out and tour in a comfortable way, and know that I can support my family and be sure that they’ll be safe and provided for,” he says. But Fricke’s point is still a salient one indeed. Stardom isn’t Escovedo’s goal. At this point in his creative and personal life, it’s not even a factor in his music making equation. But throughout his lauded 14-year solo career, Escovedo’s artistic aspirations have always aimed as high as the stars. And all along, his work has inspired the sort of rapturous critical praise that is unequalled for a contemporary artist who hasn’t (yet) achieved widespread cultural impact and fame. He has consistently earned a virtual music press thesaurus of acclamation and enjoys an ever-expanding audience as devoted as any in rock’n’roll, thanks to the stunning breadth of his musical vision, depth of his emotional expression, and the sheer quality and musicality of his work. Or in short, the artistry of Alejandro Escovedo is as good as contemporary music gets. And his seventh album, The Boxing Mirror, produced by musical master and visionary John Cale, finds Escovedo at his finest yet, exceeding his already remarkable musical achievements. His debut release on Back Porch/Narada Records comes after three trying yet also rewarding years during which Escovedo stared his own death in the face and then struggled and worked to regain his health and continue the creativity that has sustained his soul throughout his adult life. From the chilling opener “Arizona” to the final classicist grace note of “The Boxing Mirror,” it’s an album that implicitly traces Escovedo’s journey from the brink of death to wellness and an enhanced creativity and wisdom. The varied stylistic hallmarks of his previous albums are found in full force alongside new modes, moods and musical variations. With Cale’s able assistance, Escovedo truly raises rock’n’roll to high art and deepens and expands his gift for personal expression with universal impact and appeal. Arriving just a few short years after a time when it was feared that he might never record and perform again, the album is something of a miracle and well as a prime contender for the title of masterpiece. The Boxing Mirror was recorded in Los Angeles in December 2005 with Cale contributing keyboards and guitar alongside Escovedo’s band, a distinguished unit that includes such longtime accompanists as drummer Hector Munoz, cellist Brian Standefer and violinist and singer Susan Voelz (also known for her work as a member of Poi Dog Pondering). New to the group are guitarist Jon Dee Graham, a lauded artist in his own right who played with Escovedo in their 1980s band True Believers, and veteran rock’n’roll bassist Mark Andes, who a teenaged Escovedo used to see in concert playing with Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne. The album also includes lyrical contributions from poet Kim Christoff, who is also Escovedo’s wife. On it, Escovedo delivers some of his most searing rock’n’roll numbers to date (“Break This Time” and “Sacramento & Polk”) alongside moments of heart-wrenching emotionality and stunning beauty (“Evita’s Lullaby” and “Died A Little Today”), touching romanticism (“Looking For Love”) and innovative lyricism and musicality (“Dearhead On The Wall” and “Notes On Air”). Spanning a musical range from the Mexican-American music of his family heritage (“The Ladder”) to modernist and even danceable pop-rock (“Take Your Place”), The Boxing Mirror is the creative culmination of one of the most artistically accomplished and fascinating musical lives of our time. “Hard Road” is the title of a song Escovedo wrote (with his brother and bandmate Javier) during his time in the star-crossed band the True Believers. In the early days of his solo career, he saluted that group with another song titled “More Miles Than Money.” Both compositions turned out to be not just expressive but also prophetic, capturing one of the significant skeins of Escovedo’s life and musical career to date. But Escovedo has been also blessed with a richness of experience, a wealth of intrinsic rewards and untold joys and delights over the years, as well enjoying maybe just a bit too much fun along the way. In addition to the high critical esteem earned by all of his albums, his songs have inspired an acclaimed theatrical work, By the Hand of the Father, and a 32-track tribute album, Por Vida, on which his musical friends, fans and even some heroes recorded Escovedo’s compositions to help raise funds for him during his recent time of need. He was born into a large Mexican-American family in San Antonio and raised in Southern California. From his birth, music was an essential element of the Escovedo family experience, with the Latin and Chicano styles of his parents’ generation mixing with the thrilling new sounds of rock’n’roll arriving on the radio. His father Pedro was a musician who had played in mariachi bands and labor camps during the Great Depression to eke out a living. Older brothers Pete and Coke are influential percussionists who helped fuse Latin music with rock’n’roll and modern jazz with their work in the bands Santana and Azteca as well as with a pantheon of esteemed artists. Younger brothers Javier and Mario, like Alejandro, both became rock’n’roll guitarists and songwriters. By his teen years, Escovedo was enthralled with rock’n’roll even though he had yet to seriously take up an instrument. Teethed on the garage bands of the mid-1960s, he was regularly found among the fervent fans at the front of the stage at concerts and clubs throughout Southern California, following favorites like The Faces and Mott The Hoople from show to show. He began to surmise the possibilities for rock’s elemental sounds to express literary and intellectual notions as well as explore darkness and decadence with the emergence of The Velvet Underground. He finally began playing guitar during his college years in the mid-1970s in San Francisco when he formed a group to play “the worst band in the world” for a student film he was making. That band became The Nuns, one of the seminal groups of the Bay Area punk movement. Escovedo then followed his longstanding desire to move to New York City, arriving at the height of the downtown Manhattan new music scene to play with Judy Nylon and other acts. There he joined forces with fellow San Francisco punk scene veterans Chip and Tony Kinman (from The Dils) in Rank & File, who forged the early 1980s country-punk sound that was the first inklings of what later became known as alternative country. Rank & File relocated to Austin, Texas, where Escovedo started writing songs after he left the band. He formed True Believers with his brother Javier and Graham, and they quickly became the leading lights of the Austin scene. In 1986, the “Troobs” released their self-titled debut album, produced by Jim Dickinson and recorded on a slim budget of $10,000. They blazed a trail of rock’n’roll fury through the clubs and concert halls of America, often sharing the stage with their West Coast spiritual cousins, Los Lobos. Just a few weeks prior to the release of their second album, True Believers were dropped from their label, EMI Records, and the now legendary outfit sputtered to a halt soon after without ever receiving even close to their just due. Escovedo continued to refine his songwriting skills while working at Austin’s Waterloo Records, laying the groundwork for a solo career. Gravity, his 1992 debut, was immediately hailed on its release as “a near perfect album of stunning originality” by critic Rob Patterson in the Austin Chronicle. It went on to win Escovedo raves in the national media and “Musician of the Year” honors at the annual Austin Music Awards. He followed Gravity with a series of albums that continued to earn u
http://2008.sxsw.com/music/showcases/band/62893.html

Thursday March 13, 2008 10:45pm - 11:15pm
Stubb's 801 Red River St

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