Posted by John Grupe on November 11, 2016
Alejandro Escovedo’s newest album suffers from and is successful in its consistency. Singer-songwriters in the strictest sense of Americana often face this problem, aging gracefully but still managing to release relevant music. Not many have the musical lineage that Escovedo does, ranging from his own father, famed percussionist for Santana, Pete Escovedo, to Alejandro’s own musical career, which began in the punk movement of the 1970s with the ill-forgotten band, Nuns. This extensive background in music has served Escovedo well, and he would go on to form multiple other bands before releasing his first solo album in 1992. When a career like Escovedo’s finally reaches a point where the level of uniformity of tone between albums begins to blend, where there is so much to approach given such an extensive discography that it becomes problematic to even start to listen to a new release, it makes Burn Something Beautiful, his fifteenth album,disconcerting.
Thankfully, Burn Something Beautiful is a consistently good album, with plenty
of stand-out songs that are worth multiple listens, the lovelorn
Suit of Lights chief among them. Escovedo
is at ease and in fear simultaneously on this record, most apparently on the
almost ambient blues track,
, where he dreams of a world where his mother would not “cry all night long” and “wishes his father would come.” Escovedo has likely had to deal with what
most of us have to come to grips with our families, their own mortality and the
importance of valuing the time we have with them. Thankfully, the barn-burning,
Shave The Cat comes
along to pull the listener out of what could have altered the structure and
experience of this album, acting as the musical equivalent to John Travolta
thrusting the epi-pen into Uma Thurman’s vomit soaked chest, reminding the
listener that this isn’t a sad-sack old man facing mortality record, but rather
a reminder that one of our great songwriters is still writing great songs, and
still out performing them en masse.
Most Americana-tinged rock albums can tend to feel a little out of touch with mainstream pop music with the buffet of options to fit your listening needs, but Escovedo manages to make albums that still feel relevant, and as he has aged, his lyrics and vocals have only began to suit him and his demeanor even more making him an essential live performer. There are numerus staples at an Alejandro Escovedo shows, you aren’t likely to leave without hearing A Man Under The Influence lead single Castanets and the Bourbonitis Blues standout Guilty. Escovedo has written an addition to this pantheon, the lead-off song from Burn Something Beautiful, Horizontal.One of many songs about romance, heart-break, and getting older, Escovedo sings of seeing what she sees, be where she’s been, going where she gone, but only if that’s alright. It wouldn’t be an Escovedo song without a riff on par with any Dave Alvin or James McMurtry has ever put to tape as well. I know I will do everything in my power to be at Knuckleheads in Kansas City on November 12 th, seeing an incomparable songwriter producing some of his finest work forty years into his career. On the previously mentioned Suit of Lights, he sings “Who am I when you look at me? Through this prism of possibility, I see you, do you see me?” We do see you, Alejandro, and it’s clear that you still have a lot left to give.