Sunday, September 17, 2006

ex-True Believer & Nun rises like Phoenix

On Friday September 29th , former San Franciscan Alejandro Escovedo joins his old pal Chuck Prophet in a special appearance at 12 Galaxies.

Both musicians are well known for being semi-unknown, despite having decade plus solo careers, and prior to that having been involved with seminal bands in the 1980's that influenced the modern No Depression alt-contry scene. Prophet, a guitar player in the influential road dogging rapscallion outfit Green On Red, while Escovedo blazed trails with cowpunkers Rank & File and also the True Believers.

Escovedo, actually the uncle to Prince sidekick Sheila E, never had her hit records, and has lived a long, less "Glamourous Life" than her. Clean of the booze & drugs that weighed him down as a younger man, he's rising like a mythical Phoenix from the ashes of his own past to reclaim his place as one America's finest and most respected Latino musicians. He has looked death in the eye, made his peace, and seems primed to move on to other heights, which looked impossible just a few years back. His storied and at times sordid career are recounted briefly below. Read on for an overview, hear an interview, and to download some sample music tracks from some of his many recent releases...

Alejandro Escovedo's father Pedro was a mariachi musician, his brother's Pete and Coke played in the 70's latin rock scene with Santana, but Alejandro got his start out here in SF as an art scene wannabe Johnny Thunders style punker in The Nuns.

Now a more mild mannered 55 year old whose fathered 7 kids, his career has splintered off into a wild western buddhist bluesy sorta saga that goes more than a dozen albums deep as a musical artist. His 1998 live album entitled "More Miles Than Money", sorta starts to tell the story of this musical desperado from the title alone and is a good a place as any to start. Here's just a few mp3z of some tracks from his many albums to give ya a taste of the repertoire.

From his first solo venture 1992's Gravity -

Alejandro Escovedo - 5 Hearts Breaking

From 1994's Thirteen Years -

Alejandro Escovedo - Ballad Of The Sun & The Moon

From 1999's Bourbonitis Blues -

Alejandro Escovedo - I Was Drunk

Here's Alejandro from a rare early eighties clip shot with his band the True Believers for the IRS Cutting Edge show that aired on MTV... In it he is interviewed, and performs both acoustically, and in a live club setting in Austin TX.
(Runtime less than 5 min)

Over the years, while based in Austin Tx, he got into the idea of having an orchestra style performance at the annual SXSW Conferences. Amongst those ensemble players he's plucked some fine local SF musician's out for road stints including Corey Porter of the Plain High Drifters and Cynthia Wigginton of Bermuda Triangle Service. Later he came up with a CD of string quartet lineup as well...

One of the last times I recall Alejandro's name being billed in these parts, it was actually a benefit that Prophet and a slew of others like Dave Alvin, Jonathon Richman, Peter Case etc. played to help pay some of the uninsured Escovedo's musical bills as he lay in a hospital suffering the effects of Hep C. I'd post a video clip from that rare & memorable night of Alejandro's music out up here, but you'll have to ask the lame fat lady at Slim's for my confiscated tape back...

His health condition was so serious few thougt he would survive to perform, much less tour again. On the opening night of a theatrical piece dedicated to his father Pedro in Tempe AZ, Alejandro Escovedo had become quite ill. Coughing blood at rehersal, he somehow made it through the performance, but collapsed later. Doctors discovered through an endoscopy that the veins in his esophagus had burst, and he had a tumor in his abdomen. This was all complicated by advanced cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C.

While he took in emergency surgery, and a long hard road to recuperation, people convened to raise money for his care... Aside from the SF show I mentioned, a simultaneous one in NYC brought in Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople & Jon Langford of The Mekons, while many other smaller scale events were held around the US. Afterwards 31 acts including Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Los Lonely Boys recorded a two-disc set called "Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo", which helped Escovedo earn income from his publishing. In what may have been the most fortuitous event of all Roche Pharmaceuticals actually donated medicine that kept him alive.

Meanwhile, Escovedo has since recovered well enough to continue touring, attributing his health to Tibetan Buddhist healing not Interferon, and has released yet another acclaimed recording, produced by Velvet Underground bassist John Cale, out now with distro via EMI.

Here's a rocking Stonesy track from his latest release Boxing The Mirror

Alejandro Escovedo - Break This Time.

For those with even more interest, here's a 15 minute phone interview Alejandro did in April with Live Daily upon the release of the new CD "the Boxing Mirror"

Alejandro Escovedo - Interview

See Alejandro Escovedo w/ openers Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express in SF at 12 Galaxies
on Friday September 29th
2565 Mission St SF
$22 at the Door

He'll also perform at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park in early October and at The Last Day Saloon in Santa Rosa earlier that week. See for moe info

Here he is from a Bloodsho Records compilation called Executioner's Songs Vol. 3, with a slew of folks including Jon Langford & Dave Alvin.

Alejandro Escovedo - Bad News

You can download up to 25 more free Alejandro Escovdo tunes via Emusic

Or check out some albums:

The Boxing Mirror
Including: Notes on Air, Arizona, The Ladder, and more...
Buy album: online stores »
1992 - 1 review: *****
Including: Oxford, Five Hearts Breaking, Bury Me, and more...
Buy album: 5 stores »
Gravity [Bonus Disc]
Including: Bury Me/Hard Road, Oxford, Five Hearts Breaking, and more...
Thirteen Years
1994 - 1 review: *****
Including: Thirteen Years Theme, The End, Baby's Got New Plans, and more...
Buy album: - 7 stores »
With These Hands
1996 - 1 review: *****
Including: Tugboat, Guilty, With These Hands, and more...
Buy album: 4 online stores »
A Man Under the Influence
2001 - 3 reviews: *****
Including: Follow You Down, Castanets, Across the River, and more...
Buy album: 10 online stores »
By the Hand of the Father
Including: Inside This Dance, Dos Hermanos/Two Brothers, By the Hand of the Father Theme, and more...
Buy album: - 6 online stores »
More Miles Than Money: Live 1994-1996
1998 - 1 review
Including: Slip Away, Five Hearts Breaking, Last to Know, and more...
Buy album: iTunes Music Store
With These Hands [Bonus Disc]
Including: Pissed Off 2 AM, Pissed Off 2 AM [Live], Tugboat, and more...
Thirteen Years [Bonus Disc]

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