Home Read Albums Of The Week: Alejandro Escovedo | Echo Dancing

Albums Of The Week: Alejandro Escovedo | Echo Dancing

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “No one has really ever been able to define themselves and their music like singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo does. His life in music of all kinds sometimes feels like a swirl through the sky, where his songs point out all the majesty and mystery of how he sees the world. The sounds he makes take him places that he might not even predict, but once there, greatness always follows. It’s just the way Escovedo is. It has happened over and over for decades, almost like a fateful agreement he has with the cosmos. There is a good chance it cannot be explained, especially by him.

Maybe that’s because this is a musician who feels magic, both in himself and the world around him, and is open to the experience of whatever comes his way. It is not always easy, and can have a high demand on how a person lives. But it is the way that Escovedo is always moving forward.

On this new album, Escovedo has taken a road rarely traveled, which is in keeping with how he has lived his life in music. Echo Dancing is an experiment in how to use the past to shape the future. By recording new and repurposed versions of songs from his past, Escovedo gets to rewrite his own history. It’s also an idea that pushes growth into the present, and asks an artist to see themselves anew. “I always feel that a well-written song can withstand a lot of abuse,” Escovedo says. It is an area of creativity that the man has always honored. “Turning a past song inside out leads to discovery of new ideas you might not have understood about the song,” he says. “Even lyrical refurbishing has proven helpful and effective. It’s like interpreting your own work anew. The songs never seem to be complete. They are always evolving.”

Songs like Bury Me and Castañuelas, powerful in their original form, now announce themselves as highlights of Escovedo’s career. They speak to an eternal world that lives inside his music, formed in a way that cannot age. It is something permanent in Texas-born artist; an inner flame that is always there. It feels like it is a part of musical history that is rarely captured, let alone reappears. If the life of an artist is always to push ahead, to leave what was done alone in favor of contemporary creations, Echo Dancing is a revolutionary concept: That the past can live again as a reborn entity.

“I was planning this record just prior to boarding a plane to Italy to record with Don Antonio and Nicola Peruch,” Escovedo says. “My original idea was to record an album of new material. But then I changed my mind and thought that revisiting songs from my various past albums throughout my career would be more interesting. I have a great faith in these two artists to always create something interesting with whatever I might bring to the session. These songs were already dressed for the dance.”

Escovedo knew the experience he was embarking on needed all the freshness he could find, and off he went to Italy. “I find that recording in a foreign country opens the creative eye in a way that working at home lacks,” he says. And the way the experiment worked was proof that today’s approach to these songs has a rock-solid beauty to it. A new sonic world has opened. “Surprises were a daily occurrence,” he says, “and we embraced them with exuberance. Is it the beginning or the end? I feel there have always been certain songs on my albums that have guided me to new approaches in my music. That is really the goal of recording. To keep moving forward no matter what it takes. That’s why I continue to work on new ways to tell these stories.”

The son of a Mexican immigrant and a Texas native, Escovedo got his start with the first-wave punk group The Nuns in San Francisco, then moved to New York and joined the Judy Nylon band. Heading to Austin, he formed Rank & File, one of the country’s first so-called cowpunk adventurers. In the 1980s, he was a prime architect of True Believers, which included his brother Javier and Jon Dee Graham. They helped build the gateway to the Americana music scene that prospers to this day. But it was also the point when Escovedo took control of his life and began making solo albums. The 30-plus years since that decision have been a wild roller-coaster ride of groups, spinoffs, tribute albums, dramatic projects and experiments.

The 21st century has been a time of widely successful excursions that few American musicians are able to create. Between adventurous solo albums, continuing collaborations, and an ever-growing sense of boundary-breaking, Escovedo has created his own definition of what a modern rock artist can accomplish. Which is exactly why Echo Dancing comes at the perfect time. To bring together songs he has previously recorded and inject new and different life into them is a complete justification of his belief in the future.

“I said goodbye to certain phases of my life as I have grown,” he says. “I greeted new acquaintances musically. And I was extremely surprised by the outcome. That is the thrill of being alive. I feel we have now made a beautiful collection of songs recorded in an effortless vibe of collaboration and camaraderie. I can’t give Nicola and Antonio enough credit and thanks for their musicianship and wide-open approach to making this album.

“Everyone involved has guided me to new approaches to my music, like other musicians have my whole life. I have always worked hard to discover new ways to tell the story. I’ve never hidden my love for Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Judy Nylon, Cluster, along with the Stooges, New York Dolls, MC5, Roky Erickson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Joe Ely, Terry Allen; you get the picture. There is always more work to be done and joy to be made. I am nowhere near finished.”

Echo Dancing makes sure Escovedo’s evolving circle remains unbroken.”