I’ll tell you one thing right from the jump; Alejandro Escovedo’s new album, Street Songs of Love (Fantasy/Concord Music Group), may be my favorite album of the year from a production standpoint. Of course one might expect as much when Tony Visconti is in the producer’s chair. Visconti was responsible for albums from a few minor characters called T. Rex, David Bowie, U2, and Morrissey back in the day. He knows a thing or two about how to make electric guitars sound, well, electric. Throw in some cool songs co-written by Escovedo and Chuck Prophet, and guest stints from Ian Hunter and some guy named Springsteen, and you have the makings of something pretty cool.
Alejandro Escovedo has had a storied career in rock and roll. After leaving his Texas home in the ’70s, he surfaced as a guitar player in a San Francisco band called the Nuns. After that he was part of the influential punk/country hybrid Rank & File in the ’80s, before moving back to Austin to earn his spurs with the proto-Americana band True Believers. His solo career began with the 1992 album Gravity. After doing three albums with the great guitar player Stephen Bruton (Bruton died last year) producing, Escovedo hooked up with power pop maestro Chris Stamey for two albums. Following a near death experience as the result of Hepatitis C, Escovedo enlisted John Cale to produce the brilliant but harrowing recovery album The Boxing Mirror which was released in 2006. Visconti came aboard for 2008’s Real Animal, and re-upped for the new album.
I’ve followed Escovedo’s career for a number of years, and this my be my favorite album from him. It rocks right from the opening track, “Anchor,” and rarely lets up. As if to prove that he can do anything, Escovedo follows the pounding “Tender Heart” with the soulful ballad “After the Meteor Showers,” and then the spooky southern gothic “Tula,” a tribute to the late Mississippi writer Larry Brown. It’s my favorite one-two-three punch of the year. Elsewhere, Ian Hunter provides an intense vocal contribution to “Down in the Bowery,” a song that Escovedo wrote (with Chuck Prophet) about his angry 17 year-old son.
I know that a lot of Bruce Springsteen fans read, and write for, Popdose. Last year Escovedo shared the stage with Springsteen in what was something of a late career-defining moment. I would be remiss not to mention “Faith,” a full-out rocker on which Springsteen shares the mic with Escovedo, as they plead their case over a twisty garage rock riff that Little Steven himself would be proud of.
I’m pretty sure that Street Songs of Love is the album that Tom Petty is trying to make, or at least should be trying to make. It’s brimming with snarling electric guitars, crashing drums, and some first-rate songs. It could easily be the soundtrack to your summer.