Alejandro Escovedo is an indie-label legend. His rich, 20-plus year pedigree includes memberships in many influential (albeit obscure) bands including Rank and File, The Setters, True Believers and Buick MacKane. Escovedo’s first outfit, The Nuns, holds the distinction of being the opener for The Sex Pistols’ final show.
Escovedo is a gifted singer/songwriter with extremely eclectic tastes. He successfully incorporates a myriad of styles ranging from the punk of his late-70s Nuns days to the Mexican, folk-blues and country music that he listened to as a child. While his last three solo albums for Bloodshot Records have, on the whole, been more subdued affairs than the so-called “cowpunk” he previously played, Escovedo is still known to rock out in concert with fiery cuts such as The Stooges, “I Wanna Be your Dog.”
“It’s hard to really pin point my music,” said Escovedo from his home in the scenic Texas Hill Country outside of San Antonio. “A lot of things happen in one song that are quite differently stylistically.”
Escovedo’s latest release from 2001, Man Under the Influence, is a beautiful soundscape of soulful, string-enhanced ballads, blues boogie and juke-joint rock. Perhaps the finest disc of his career, the album garnered gushing reviews in major publications such as Spin and Rolling Stone. In the latter, David Fricke wrote: “another beauty from a one-man genre” (RS, April 26, 2001).
“It’s one of my top-two favorite albums I have ever made – this one and Thirteen Years (Watermelon Records, 1993) are my favorites,” said Escovedo. “The thing about this record is that it marries everything I have ever wanted to experiment with or that I have experimented with. It all really gelled on this record.”
Escovedo attributes his vast knowledge of disparate music styles to his upbringing in the Lonestar state.
“Growing up in Texas, I listened to everything from Mexican music to early rock ‘n roll and a lot of country and western stuff that kind of set the tone for the rest of my life,” said Escovedo. When his family moved to California in 1958, rock and jazz began to play a bigger role in his sphere of influence.
“I was totally overwhelmed by everything that came through during the 1960s,” said Escovedo. “My brothers were jazz percussionists – I learned a lot about jazz with them.”
The liberal programming methods of commercial radio during the 1950s and ’60s were also important to Escovedo’s musical development.
“Luckily, I was born in a time when radio was very free, so my musical education was pretty wide open,” mused Escovedo.While the rest of the country continues to grow more rigid in their musical tastes, and commercial radio programmers become increasingly less open-minded, Escovedo is proud to be an integral part of the diverse Texas music community. He has only missed the annual South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin “maybe twice” since its inception in 1990 and his performance this year was once again triumphant.
“The whole approach to making music here (in Texas) is different,” said Escovedo. “I try to explain that to people, but when I play with musicians from other parts of the country … the vibe is just completely different. The fans are that way, too. They are very accepting of different things you might do doing your career.”
Escovedo is enthusiastic about the fact that people are receptive to diversity in general.
“It’s very open here, and I love that about anything – I think that’s a great approach to life.”
The Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra will perform Saturday, 8 p.m. at Skipper’s Smokehouse. For advance tickets (Escovedo’s last show sold-out) call 971-0666. Ticket prices are $12 advance / $15 at the door.
Contact Off Limits Editor Wade Tatangelo at firstname.lastname@example.org