Tonight brings a fantastic double-bill to Durham, the sublime pairing of Lambchop with Alejandro Escovedo. And since Escovedo is all about unexpected collaborations and where they might wind up, you might even see them onstage together at some point.
"We actually did a show with Alejandro many years ago in London, and we did attempt a song together," Lambchop's Kurt Wagner said in a recent interview. "As I recall, he was a little bemused at our selection. So he might not be eager to join us again. But he was great. The man's a giant. The fact that he still perseveres after all this time -- even longer than we have -- is really cool."
For more talk and details on tonight's show, see the interview with Wagner in Friday's paper. Also, below is an interview with Escovedo from last year.
Escovedo's sweet breakthrough
By David Menconi, News & Observer
Oct. 21, 2008
Alejandro Escovedo has been making brilliant records in relative obscurity since the early '80s, racking up "more miles than money," as he once put it in song. But since he joined Bruce Springsteen onstage at a show in Houston three months ago (which he likens to "a blessing from the Dalai Lama"), Escovedo has been on one big stage after another, including "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and the Democratic National Convention.
All the attention helped get Escovedo to another unfamiliar place, the Billboard charts. "Real Animal" (Back Porch/Manhattan Records) is Escovedo's first to crack the Billboard 200, and it's his best-selling album after only a few months in the stores.
Of course, it helps that Escovedo has a veritable dream team behind him these days, including Spring-steen manager Jon Landau. "Real Animal" further benefits from the production touch of Tony Visconti, whose credits include seminal works by David Bowie and T. Rex; and glowing liner notes by "Stop Making Sense" director Jonathan Demme.
Another point in Escovedo's favor is that "Real Animal" is the most accessible album he has ever made, rocked-up Latino country-soul that travels some of the same back streets as Springsteen. Onstage with Springsteen's E Street Band, Escovedo played the opening track, "Always a Friend," and it was a perfect fit.
For Escovedo, finally breaking through at age 57 is doubly sweet because of the nature of "Real Animal." Co-written with Chuck Prophet, a fellow traveler on the roots-rock chitlin circuit, "Real Animal" is a retrospective of the people, places and bands from Escovedo's life and career.
"I wanted to write a record about the bands I was in and the music I loved that inspired me," Escovedo says, calling while prowling a record store in San Marcos, Texas. "The crazy situations I've been in and all the things that happened along the way losing dear friends and making great friends, falling in and out of love with music and women, the whole thing. That's what it's about, this story. My story."
Not that it was an easy sell. Just getting "Real Animal" made proved to be a struggle.
"It was difficult to convince some people, mainly at the record company, that this was something worth telling," Escovedo says. "Certain people always believed in it, others were scared off by the whole thing about it being a 'concept' record. But Tony Visconti immediately understood the cinematic qualities and what I was trying to do."
"Real Animal" ranges from the raw, ragged punk of "Chelsea Hotel '78" and "Nuns Song" to layered pop ("Sister Lost Soul") and slow-burn balladry ("Sensitive Boys," "Slow Down"). One of Visconti's most obvious self-referential flourishes comes on "Golden Bear," which is decorated with a spacey keyboard riff that is a kissing cousin to Bowie's Visconti-produced "Ashes to Ashes."
"At first that was just a little piano line," Escovedo says. "And when you hear it that way, it hints at Bowie, but it's not as obvious. Then Tony started messing with it and treating it, and it turned out a lot more obvious, which I think is great. We're paying homage to a lot of these records."
Somewhere in the middle is the loopy Bob Dylan-esque swagger of "People (We're Only Gonna Live So Long)." That was the song Escovedo played back in August at the Democratic convention in Denver, where he opened for Hillary Clinton's speech. Two months later, he's still buzzed about the experience.
"Let me tell you something, that was the most exciting piece of music I've ever done," he says. "It was only one song. But man, what a trip! There was a certain energy in the room and the whole city. It was the first time in a long time, since I was a kid during the Kennedy years, that I felt like a part of something that was building into a moment of energy and change about the way we live. It might not last, but even just to feel that was exciting. It's not something you encounter every day."