A preview of Alejandro Escovedo’s new album, then
At one point, almost grown up, my buddy Wayde was for some reason living in a rental where they’d combined three stereos, so we sat in a small, wood-floor room with two sets of Advents on the bottom and one set of JBLs on top and played David Bowie, I think, really loud. Or Ted Nugent, except that was in Sigma Chi, visiting, my freshman year. What was Wayde playing? Something we didn’t normally play, but that was a long time ago, now.
Back in high school there were kids who listened to Mott The Hoople, I know there were. They drove bondo cars with glasspack mufflers and smoked cigarettes and touched the forbidden places of girls who just tossed their heads or saw through us, or whatever they did.
Sometimes I look on Facebook, wondering what came of all those people, but mostly I can’t remember the names. Except the one who became my stepbrother, but he wasn’t musical. Isn’t.
Such plans I had for Alejandro Escovedo’s new album, Street Songs of Love.
I was suspicious, since most of it’s co-written with Chuck Prophet and living in Nashville solidified my instinctual aversion to co-writing. Thing is, beyond loving some of the same music, and finally having a child of my own, I don’t have much in common with Alejandro Escovedo. Nor, I suppose, with most of the musicians whose work touches me. Really, what would I have said to Hank Williams? But what I have come to value in his work is the immediacy of his confessions, the directness with which he express himself, and the clarity with which his words interact with his music.
Where’s my Thoreau? Here: I quote this often, have left the marker in place.
“Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”
I was in sixth grade when first I read that. (Never throw anything away.)
And Tony Visconti, he produced it. He’s, y’know, Tony Visconti. But he’s not Buddy Miller, nor Pete Anderson, nor, I dunno. Just different.
Truth is, I didn’t listen to the two-disc summation of Mott which came free my way until New West sent out Ian Hunter’s last solo album, and I was struck by how impossibly muscular a rock album this 70-year-old man had made. So I listened, finally.
By which I mean, all in, to say that Street Songs Of Love is, for the moment, a more comfortable evocation of that Mott corner of Alejandro’s past than was Buick MacKane. For me, anyhow. I like the loud bits when he’s touring. I also like the cello. I like all of it. Sometimes just part of it doesn’t fit.
Anyhow. Plans. I had plans. I got to know the album well enough driving back and forth to the farm in my little red truck, until the CD player/radio decided to begin starting and stopping of its own volition, and I finally had wit enough to pull the CD out before even that became impossible. I can’t justify buying a new deck for the old truck, so I’m screwed again.
The plan was, I’d drag the old Advents out of the closet and hook them up in here, give myself four speakers to hammer these songs home because, yes, they want to be played loud. The physicality of rock. See if it worked, if it still worked.
But, alas, time.
The album title is a fair description. They’re all love stories, one way or another. And what I guess co-writing with Chuck Prophet has made possible is a kind of generality, instead of the specificity of Alejandro’s own voice and experiences. They’re broader songs, rock songs. Big songs, mostly, even the one he wrote to his daughter (or which seems to have been written to his daughter), “Down in the Bowery.” I don’t know who wrote this line, or polished it, but it’s spot-on: “I hope you live long enough/to forget all the stuff/that I taught ya/Cuz when all’s said and done/I hope you got your own set of rules/to hang on to.” Which would, by the way, make a fine song for David Bowie to sing, if he still did, and if anybody still listened.
So I’ll table my prejudice against co-writing, for the moment. This one works. It has enough precision to be honest, enough generality to hang with the big drum beats and slugging guitars. But I wish I had those other speakers just now, listening to “Tender Heart.” I’m pretty sure the guys in the Camaros…(actually, my first car was a ’67 Camaro convertible, but it was a mess and I never got it looking pretty or running fast, and it was stupid of me to have tried; my step-brother has it now, in a garage, beautiful and untouched)…I’m pretty sure they could’ve gotten behind this song, back in 1977, when we were all young and full of hope.
This is not, incidentally, a review. Not really. The album comes out June 29, and I think it’s still considered unsporting to review things this much before the release date. And, anyway, I’m not much interested in behaving and writing reviews the way people apparently want to read reviews these days.
But you’ll like “This Bed Is Getting Crowded,” which would do for a country song if country still did such things. “Undesired” reminds me, somehow, of early Warren Zevon, the legend. The headless Thompson gunner. Him.
The rest, somebody else can tell you about. Or, y’know. Buy the record. Isn’t that what we’re here for?