Alejandro Escovedo “Big Station”
Escovedo is someone who slips from style to style, genre to genre, lifting whatever he finds useful and combining them however he pleases. He also has a great force of personality and putting these things together you get a charismatic performer with a freewheeling attitude, a great independence that allows him to synthesise styles into something of his own.
He is so steeped in the mythology and culture of Americana that his songs sometimes seem like standards so that on first listen you already half know them. The title track bristles with such new wave energy and classic rock backing vocals that it gathers you up and takes you along with his passion.
The mood is dialled down for ‘Sally Was a Cop’ which is full of haunting atmosphere as it deals with the havoc wrought by Mexican drug cartels. Muted trumpet adds a shade of blue to ‘Can’t Make Me Run’ and a lonesome saxophone follows the chorus, Escovedo is so in tune with his subject matter be it personal or political, that everything seems so true. That he know has command of the subject, so that the sadness of ‘San Antonio Rain’ is palpable and drawn from experience. After his 30 odd years in music from his days on Rank and File and the True Believers he has built up quite an address book and he’s helped out by some of his friends here. Chuck Prophet co-wrote the songs and Tony Visconti (its a long way from the slick disco sheen he gave Altered Images) producing gives everything just the right amount of embellishment, he knows when to step in and when to stand back as he does on the primal ‘Man of the World’ with its skinny tie and shades, spanking chorus and riffing, it is left to its own devices like fizzing firework sparking and jumping until it runs down.
That Escovedo is still vital is more than commendable, for me he’s halfway between the establishment of Bruce Springsteen and the outsider art of Paul K, and ‘Never Stood a Chance’ spears this point exactly. Still vital, still developing, Escovedo is a lesson to us all.