Alejandro Escovedo shares a manager with Bruce Springsteen these days, a connection that’s inescapable on this tenth solo LP, Street Songs of Love, released last Tuesday 6/29. His Bossness himself adds brawn to the suitably muscle-bound duet “Faith”, and indeed there’s a ‘big production’ feel to this whole thing, no doubt aided by the presence of Born In The USA mixman, Bob Clearmountain. Yet it remains very much a personal Escovedo project, a meditation not only on the myriad forms of love but also a tribute to both family and departed friends. The songs themselves (mostly co-written with Chuck Prophet) were forged over a two-month residency at Austin’s Continental Club, where he and his trusty backing band – The Sensitive Boys – chiselled and chipped until they took shape. Then along came Tony Visconti, adding the same robust, freewheeling production that he brought to 2008′s Real Animal.
This is Escovedo in lean, bullish mood, tunes like “Silver Cloud” and “This Bed Is Getting Crowded” almost a throwback to the inflamed roots-rock of his ’80s band, the True Believers. “Tender Heart” even finds him and the band buzzing away like early Elvis Costello & The Attractions. That said, Escovedo is as reflective as he is melodic, and never more so than on “Down In The Bowery”. Here, aided by old buddy Ian Hunter (who he’s publicly thanked for sticking by him when stricken by Hepatitis-C a few years back), Escovedo addresses his teenage son, Paris, currently undergoing a turbulent stage. “I’d buy you a smile in a minute,” he sings in soft tones, “But would you wear it?”
Then there’s “Tula”, a tribute to late Mississippi writer and friend Larry Brown, a slippery swamp-funk thing that recalls both Little Feat and the Los Lobos of Kiko. And “Fort Worth Blue”, an acoustic elegy to his onetime guitarist Stephen Bruton, who died last year. The aforementioned “Faith” finds Escovedo and Springsteen punching out verses like an affirmation of the religious power of rock’n'roll itself. Which is more than apt and highly symbolic of this record as a whole. Escovedo sounds truly spirited.
It’s hard not to love Kathleen Edwards as she delivers with conviction and confidence on songs suited for both quiet country roads and late night city bars. As one of the latest great female voices to emerge on the Alt-Country scene, she stands tall next to other significant genre partners including Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, and Patty Griffin. Her words are delivered with rough edges and heavy, somewhat smoky breath, yet nothing is overstated. Bursting onto the music scene in 2003 with her critically acclaimed debut album Failer, Edwards quickly found herself performing on the Letterman and Leno shows, opening for The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, and championed by Rolling Stone as one of the year's most promising acts. She’s released three excellent albums in a row, without the slightest sign of anything being rushed, duplicated, or half-hearted. Kathleen's spending most of the summer hunkered down, writing new songs for her fourth album but she is stretching her performing muscles a few times, including this gig at the Calvin.
Get tickets here for Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys and Kathleen Edwards at the Calvin Theatre on Tuesday, July 20th at 8PM