Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Alejandro Escovedo: Genre-bending at its finest

For the past 10 years — over 20 if you count his pre-solo days with the seminal roots band Rank and File — Alejandro Escovedo has consistently made some of the most interesting and affecting music of any American musician.

Alternating with seemingly effortless ease between the roles of American balladeer, post-punk genre-bender and straight-up rocker, Escovedo’s albums stand apart from nearly any easy categorization that may be unfairly (and increasingly desperately) levied upon them.

Beginning with the acclaimed Gravity and continuing all the way up to his latest, A Man Under The Influence, Escovedo has forged a path on which he has been forced to sacrifice neither his deep artistic integrity nor his eccentric musical spirit.


With material ranging from deep wailing soul to loud fireball rock (like that of “Castanets” — one of the great unknown masterpieces in recent memory), Alejandro Escovedo continues to surpass his previous milestone.

Most recently, he has trumped himself again with By The Hand of the Father, a moving and memorable theater piece chronicling the early Mexican American experience. With this piece, Escovedo has moved into yet another artistic category, becoming a chronicler of American life in the tradition of Whitman, Guthrie and Langston Hughes.

Alejandro Escovedo – with his Texas String Quartet – brings his restless spirit to Luther’s Blues Saturday, Feb. 15.

Escovedo recently spoke to the Badger Herald.

Badger Herald: You’ve sort of been grouped into the “alt-country” movement, even so far as being named by No Depression magazine as the “Artist of the Decade.” How do you feel about becoming something of a de facto leader of the genre?

Alejando Escovedo: I don’t know that I’m the leader of anything. It was nice to get that honor, but I’ve been playing this music off and on for years, so I don’t consider myself part of the movement.

There are so many styles in this thing called “alt-country:” the stuff Wilco does, the stuff I do, the stuff [Jon] Langford or Robbie Fulks does. There’s such diversity within the style, and labeling doesn’t really do justice to the music.

BH: How did By the Hand of the Father come into being?

AE: It started as a song, and then it just developed out of me wanting to tell my father’s story. It was three or four years in development, and I’m very proud of it. I think we accomplished what we wanted to do. It’s helped me stretch out into a really different mindset. It also gave me a chance to play with my brother.

BH: What is the role of the artist as historian?

AE: I think it’s important to tell stories, you know? Try to carry on the troubadour tradition. There are artists who do that: Peter Case, Prine, Ed Hammell, and it’s important to have them. They write to the village and give us views and insights about our own lives, which is important.

BH: Musically, you’re all over the place. Who would you name as your major influences?

AE: Musically, The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Bob Marley and the Wailers – also Mott the Hoople and Ian Hunter. He writes great narratives, talks about his life in a way that captures the feelings of a lot of people, while he also stays in love with the music.

BH: Tell me about “Sad and Dreamy (The Big 1-0),” your track on (and a highlight of) the kids’ album The Bottle Let Me Down.

AE: That was written during a seminar with elementary-school children, and we were trying to tell stories through songs. That song was a result of all those children writing, and then we (Escovedo and co-writer Michael Fracasso) helped them develop it. It’s got a special place in my heart, them writing about being young and also growing up.

BH: What led you to perform with a string quartet?

AE: I’ve been using strings forever and toured for a long time as an acoustic trio. Right before [1999’s] Bourbonitis Blues, I did a similar tour, where we’d set up in small clubs and just start playing. So that’s what inspired this whole thing. The quartet consists of a cello, two violins, and guitar. It’s beautiful.

BH: What’s next for you?

AE: I’d like to get some sleep. I produced a band called the Dead End Angels. They sound Replacements-like sometimes, and sometimes they’re ballad-y. I’m doing the play a lot this year as well. Hopefully writing some songs too.

BH: What should folks coming to the show expect?

AE: My songs, with a couple new ones, done with a really beautiful string arrangement. Good harmonies; it’ll just be real lush and pretty.

BH: What music are you currently listening to?

AE: The Dead End Angels, Flaming Lips, Brian Sandefur’s Screen Door Music, a band from Austin called The Real Heroes. Lots of stuff people haven’t heard.

Alejandro Escovedo with his Texas String Quartet (feat. Susan Voelz) and opener Kelly Hogan will appear at Luther’s Blues Saturday, Feb. 15 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 day of show and are available at Luther’s Blues ticket outlets.

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