ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO and THE SENSITIVE BOYS
Visulite Theatre (16+ (Must have ID) - Under 16 with Parent Only)
Doors Open: 7:00 - Show Starts: 7:30
There are songwriters who sing their songs, and then there are songs who sing their writers.
Alejandro Escovedo is one with his muse and his music. Over a lifetime spent traversing the bridge between words and melody, he has ranged over an emotional depth that embraces all forms of genre and presentation, a resolute voice that weathers the emotional terrain of our lives, its celebrations and despairs, landmines and blindsides and upheavals and beckoning distractions, in search for ultimate release and the healing truth of honesty. Sometimes it takes the form of barely contained rage, the rock of punk amid kneeled feedback; sometimes it caresses and soothes, a whispery harmony riding the air of a nightclub room, removed from amplification, within the audience.
His rise has been gradual, a steady incline rather than a quick ascendance, but it has deepened and burnished his music, made it closer to the bone, where it begins to break, deepening his insight and his ability to find that insight in performance. His tireless touring, and dogged determination to place one album after another, has taken him through many musical scenes, remaining the same persona within each, of an artist who doesn’t settle for the easy way out.
“You just do your good work, and people care,” Alejandro says over the phone beginning a promotional tour for his latest work, Street Songs of Love, his tenth solo album. “I always believed, when I was a kid, that if you just worked hard, you would find fulfillment. I think I got a lot of that from my father, and my brothers. A working musician is all I ever wanted to be. Hard work, to stay true to what you want to do, and then eventually someone would notice for that very reason.”
It is a journey that has taken him from Texas to California to New York and back again to Texas, encompassing a breadth of music as varied as the many bands he was part of before embarking on a solo career. In the 1970s, he surfaced on San Francisco’s no-holds-barred punk scene centered around the Mabuhay Gardens in North Beach, a guitarist in the Nuns; Rank & File helped unite the disparate worlds of punk and country in the 1980s; and after he moved back to Austin, the True Believers combined all manner of Americana music in a harbinger of what was to come in Alejandro’s solo career which begun in 1992 with the album Gravity.
“I had a good record collection,” he says when asked about his many roots and branches. Born in San Antonio in 1951, “I grew up in a family of twelve kids. My brothers were jazzers, into Latin jazz and percussion music, Cuban and Puerto Rican. Both my mother and father loved Mexican trio music, vocal groups like Los Panchos, and Tres Aces, who sang beautiful romantic ballads in three part harmony. And then I had a cousin who lived with us in the fifties, who was slightly older than me, a teenager who turned me on to Elvis, and Chuck Berry and the Big Bopper. In 1957 we moved from Texas, where I’d heard the beginnings of rock, and country music, and the blues a little bit, because it was around, and we went to California. It was there I got exposed to the wealth of surf music, and Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Thee Midnighters, the 103rd St. Watts Rhythm Band. My cousins would sneak us into dances when we were young, and we’d watch the dancers. I got caught up in that, and the Anglophile thing, all those garage bands who listened to the English groups and turned it into something new.”
“You can’t be parochial about music,” he continued. “I learned that if you immerse yourself in something, listening to records over and over, so it becomes a language, you could learn to speak it. When I began to come of age, and was able to play the music, it became like a religion to me. We were fortunate that radio at that time had no boundaries. It was all brand new. No one knew you couldn’t play Marvin Gaye, and then Captain Beefheart, and then Sun Ra. It was all great, and to me, it all made sense.”
It was Alejandro’s exposure to the freewheeling anything-goes ethos of punk that set him in motion on his musical path. “The beautiful thing about punk rock to me was that it was all mix-and-match, at least until it started defining itself,” he said. “We would have shows where a reggae star like Max Romeo would play with a rockabilly guy like Ray Campi, and then be followed by the in-your-face blast of Crime.”
But it was in Austin, where he returned in the mid-1980s, that Alejandro found a musical geography that matched his own eclectic sense of musical possibility. “It was this place that was completely open. The community really supported the musicians. It was small enough that you knew everybody there. You could see Townes Van Zandt walking around, or go to some beer garden and hear Billy Joe Shaver, or catch the Vaughan brothers playing every night at some place. Everybody appreciated each different type of genre of music. The punks respected Townes and the Vaughans, and the Vaughans respected everybody else. Musicians sometimes isolate themselves in their respective scenes. So to be in this small town where everybody encouraged each other, there were great shows all the time, it was cheap to live there, the beer was great, the girls were pretty, the weather warm, there was a great swimming hole… It was just like paradise to me. Austin is an oasis in Texas, where all these kids from small farming and ranch towns and West Texas and the Panhandle, and down in the Valley, and East Texas, they all come to Austin because it’s freedom.”
Start Time: 7:30