However you define Americana, there’s no question that it continues to both evolve and include an ever-growing diverse group of artists with stories to tell about their own American experiences. In 2018, there may be no artist more important to the genre than Alejandro Escovedo. Though he’s one of many musicians holding a mirror up to society, revealing the glaring cracks and flaws, Escovedo does so in a singular way, compelling us to listen and captivating us with his perspective.
On his latest record, The Crossing, Escovedo has created an ambitious concept, channeling his roots as a Mexican-American by inhabiting two fictional characters, the Italian Salvo and the Mexican Diego, both young immigrants. As the boys strive to achieve their own versions of the American dream in working class Texas, they encounter danger, racism, hardship, and loss, as well as moments of intense growth and self-realization, all while forming an intense bond. The journey is something to behold, and Escovedo tells it through a melting pot of genres including classic rock and roll, protest music, funk, and soul, paying homage to the bands of his past that shaped his own artistic identity. With the addition of the gloriously badass Wayne Kramer on guitar and the vivid arrangements of Italian instrumental group Don Antonio, the result is more than just a killer collection of songs. It’s an entire world.
Whether it’s a twangy guitar lick on the punk rock “Outlaw For You” or the impassioned spoken word pieces – by Freddy Trujillo on the racist confrontational “Rio Navidad” and Joe Ely on the dramatic, southwestern noir “The Crossing” – Escovedo has crafted a true epic, full of endless details to discover.
On the album’s title track, when Diego’s beloved friend Salvo ultimately dies, Escovedo sings, “it seems that times have changed / they’ve taken all the pretty things / the memories and the photographs / thoughts and prayers they never last / don’t waste them on the past / we all become history when we make the crossing.” This is the crux of The Crossing: the brutality of losing your identity and your loved ones, and the constant erasure of culture, all in the pursuit of the American Dream. “This story has no ending,” he says. It may seem morbid, but through the cold, dark truth, Escovedo has made a spectacular, sprawling piece of beautiful art that is at once timely and timeless.