Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love (Concord)

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Alejandro Escovedo: Down in the Bowery
Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love (Concord)

From the breathless pace he sets on this hard rocking album you'd never know that Escovedo out of Texas (formerly of Rank and File, a fellow traveller with John Dee Graham, co-writer with Chuck Prophet and now managed by Springsteen's Jon Landau) nearly died a few years ago.

Such is the high regard he is held in by his peers that for a fund-raising tribute album Son Volt, Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, Steve Earle, John Cale (who produced Escovedo's The Boxing Mirror of four years ago), Lucinda Williams and others all lined up.

This new album is produced by Tony Visconti (Bowie, and the title track mentions "a tin machine"!) and it is a crisp, stilleto-sharp outing with an edge of rock'n'roll desperation (which for NZ listeners may recall Hello Sailor in their heyday).

Half are co-writes with Prophet, the band is a tight trio behind Escovedo, Ian Hunter joins him on the backstreet ballad Down in the Bowery, the punk energy which fueled his early years appears everywhere (Tender Heart is anything but), Springsteen turns up for the 18-wheel powerhouse of the life-affirming Faith . . .

There is gentleness here too (After the Meteor Showers is a ballad with two women on backing vocals, Falling Apart With You) and Tula is a stabbing piece of with an edgy off-kilter funky Tex-Mex beat.

And the rush comes to a close with a gentle guitar instrumental Fort Worth Blue, which you imagine might be the highway song for 2am when Escovedo is driving home alone across the deserts of West Texas after a gig.

Escovedo is probably too far into his career to break into wider attention, but if you like rock'n'roll of the old style (Bob Seger, Petty before the Wilburys, the Replacements etc) then this is your windows-wound-down album.

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