Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Voices To Hear

Written by John Holland of altjiranga mitjina

After enough begging and whining Heather has decided that the easiest solution to dealing with me is to just give me a weekly slot here to talk about music. So this week’s column starts the official debut of Voices to hear. Not much is really going to change from the previous posts I’ve done here. My goal is to spotlight music that doesn’t get enough notice in today’s media driven world of who is the biggest, not always who is the best. Now and than I might slip an album review into here or talk about a concert. What you won’t find here will be reviews that bash some artist or album. The purpose of this column is to promote and showcase, not tear down.

Today’s column is going to spotlight an American treasure. This man should be much better known than he is. No Depressionmagazine (a great magazine about music) named him the artist of the decade for the previous decade. Who am I talking about? His name is Alejandro Escovedo and unfortunately most of you reading this have probably never heard of him. He’s not a new artist, he’s been singing and making great music for decades. His voice echoes the weariness of life, his music a combination of rock, folk and country.

He was born in San Antonio to a large family. His niece is the singer/drummer Shelia E. After moving to San Francisco for college he formed one of the seminal punk bands of the Bay area, the Nuns. After awhile he moved to New York where he joined forces with Chip and Tony Kinman (from the Dils) to form the country-punk band Rank and File. Their first album rates as one of the classic pieces in what is now called Americana. The band moved to Austin where he quit and formed a new group with two of his brothers called True Believers. After a rocking first album the group was dropped by their label just before the release of their second album.

Now a solo artist Alejandro began to make music that really fit in no neat little box. He played a combination of rock, folk, country, blues mixed in with the music of the Mexican-Americans from his home state. His voice is a rich deep sound of a life lived hard but still filled with small joys one can find. His songs tell the story of such a life and the lives of his parents and family.

In 2003 after years of living a rock and roll lifestyle and the hard drinking and drug use that goes with such a lifestyle Alejandro fell critically ill before a concert and was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. After a long bout of recovery he release a new album last year called The Boxing Mirror.

His discography is not large. His first solo release was Gravity followed by eight more albums. He has played with a rock band, acoustically and with a string quintet and a 13 piece Orchestra.

Live he is amazing. I saw him perform with just another guitarist, David Pulkingham. The two sat on the stage and played some of the most amazing music I have ever heard. In between songs Alejandro would tell stories of his youth and of his Father coming from Mexico. It was one of the most amazing shows I have ever had the privilege.


By the time you read this John Holland of altjiranga mitjina will be back from his trip to Washington D.C. but as he writes it he hasn’t even left yet, so he hopes he had a good time.


Suburban Oblivion said...

Sounds great..which of his songs would you recommend to hook a first-time listener?

Mama Zen said...

Sounds like something I might like. I'll definitely check it out.

Keta said...

I saw Alejandro Escovedo play a small bar in Vancouver in . . . oh I guess it was 1999.
He seemed to have availed himself of a quantity of the very finely reputed Vancouver hard drugs (he kept snorting and rubbing his nose heartily into his face).
The set was hard & fast, just like us old punks like it!
The best part though, was when he was telling a story of getting stopped by Customs in Germany; they kept accusing him of being Vietnamese! (as in, with a gang). He said, "I kept telling them 'I'm a Chicano from Texas.' but they didn't believe me and kept me there for many hours, asking over and over if I was Vietnamese." I thought it was a great story but, like Alejandro, was stuck looking at a blank-faced audience. I don't think they could understand him!
(pointless story but . . . whatever)

melody said...

Personally, I'm glad you pestered your way into a weekly column. I love diversity in music and you write great reviews.

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