Alejandro Escovedo suffered from a collapse due to hepatitis C in June 2003. While bills started to pile up, his friends started to do benefit concerts to help him and then finally they did this CD. Shame on the richest country on the earth that is unable to give a proper health insurance to its citizens. I was ashamed to have to donate to one of my favorite singers and that he had to set a web site to raise money (http://www.alejandrofund.com) to get a proper treatment. Anyway, I am happy to know that he is doing much better.
I was lucky enough, since I live in Israel, to see Escovedo play live in 1999 in Austin. His live performance was fresh and always, even in his more rocking and rolling songs, sensitive. Most of his records convey this delicate balance between tenderness and strength.
I really don't know what to do with this tribute. I think that most songs here are well played but they fail to convey the scope of Escovedo's music. It's like all the chords are there, and there is even a good energy, but the soul is somewhere else. I was even disappointed by artists that are often played in my system, like Cowboy junkies, Lucinda Williams, Peter Case and others.
Not everything is lost here. John Cale is very convincing in She Doesn't Live Here Anymore. He explores this song in a very different way than Escovedo, making it sound like a soundtrack to a movie where you can actually see the empty flat where she doesn't live, and the empty streets in an autumn day with all the leaves roaming around.
Then, listening and pusing the skip button, I just wished most of the time that someone would try to come closer to the original as Chris Stammey does in One True Love. By just following Escovedo, Stamey does what most tracks fail to do. Ruben Ramos also gives a beautiful version of Thirteen Years, using a cello making it closer to Escovedo's orchestra.
Listening to these two CD's I came to the conclusion that what makes Alejandro Escovedo great is not his songwriting, but the interaction between his songwriting, his singing, and his very unique instrumentation. He does more of a complete show than your average singer-songwriter. I wonder if his songs can stand their chance in the voices of other artists. But, judging by this CD, it seems a very difficult task.
Maybe this set will bring some new fans to Escovedo, though I am not sure. Anyway, I would recommend anyone interested in Alejandro Escovedo's music to buy first his CD's, especially the classic Gravity, and then, Thirteen Years, and most of his solo output. This CD is for collectors or real completist fans of the artists performing here. and don't forget to donate to http://www.alejandrofund.com.
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