by Mitch Myers
How often does a veteran artist entertain and challenge his audience — and himself — with the style and grace of Alejandro Escovedo? From his 1982 cowpunk cameo with Rank and File, to the rock-cathartic Texas duende of the True Believers, to his willful endurance as a solo artist, Escovedo has carried himself with earnestness, integrity and enthusiasm. On his second album for those indie-country rabble-rousers at Bloodshot Records, Escovedo turns in a measured effort that distills the essence of his many musical influences. Not only that, but by performing several well-chosen cover tunes which are now staples of his live show, Escovedo reveals a classic rock ’n’ roll attitude tempered by his survivor instincts. Alejandro’s sonic templates are basic but essential — the Stones, the Velvets, Iggy and maybe some Mott the Hoople. His emotive rendition of John Cale’s haunting composition "Amsterdam" is as stirring as the original version was in 1969. Consider dramatic renditions of Ian Hunter’s "Irene Wilde," a classic Gun Club tune called "Sex Beat" and Lou Reed’s "Pale Blue Eyes," and an inquest of Escovedo’s elemental roots makes perfect sense. The originals on this bare-bones recording are also compelling. Using a stripped-down road band that includes the wildman guitar of Joe Eddy Hines and a two-man string section, Alejandro rocks outrageously and croons modern lullabies with equal aplomb.
Bottom line: His barn-burning rave-out, "Everybody Loves Me" draws guitar riffs from Chuck Berry and Keith Richards, and churns them out as fresh as you please. Maybe his best yet.