Alejandro Escovedo & Joe Ely - 8/20Monday, August 20 2018 6:00pm Doors / 8:00pm Start
- Bar Stool
Alejandro Escovedo & Joe Ely - 8/20
at City Winery New York City
Alejandro Escovedo, renowned songwriter, singer and true believer. In a trailblazing career that began with The Nuns, San Francisco’s famed punk innovators, to the Austin-based-based alt-country rock pioneers, Rank & File, to Texas bred darlings, True Believers, through countless all-star collaborations and tribute album appearances and finally a series of beloved solo albums beginning with 1992’s acclaimed Gravity – recently named by Paste Magazine #21 on the Top 50 Southern Rock Albums of All Time – Escovedo has earned a surplus of distinctions: No Depression magazine’s Artist of the Decade Award in 1998 and the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing in 2006, just to name two.
In December 2017 Escovedo joined the Yep Roc family, after playing the 20th anniversary celebration shows in North Carolina. He crossed paths again with Chris Stamey (dB’s) for the first time in 17 years after Stamey produced A Man Under the Influence (Bloodshot, 2001). It was here the concept was born to merge a new interpretation of A Man Under the Influence with the Think About the Link Tour presented by Prevent Cancer Foundation, for whom Escovedo has been a spokesperson since 2017. As a hepatitis C survivor, Escovedo hopes to spread the word about the link between hepatitis C and liver cancer. The tour kicked off on January 13, 2018 at his annual show at ACL Live at the Moody in Austin to stunning reviews. Each night, Escovedo and band performed his seminal “A Man Under the Influence album in its entirety, with new arrangements by music director Stamey and featuring most of the original musicians featured on the album – Mitch Easter (producer, R.E.M., frontman, Let’s Active), Eric Heywood (The Pretenders), long-time drummer Hector Munoz and cellist Brian Standefer. The second half of the show devoted to inspired covers by celebrated music heroes who have succumbed to cancer, survivors, and gems from Alejandro’s rich catalog.
In October 2016, Escovedo, released the well-loved Burn Something Beautiful on Concord Music’s Fantasy Records. The album, Escovedo’s first solo endeavor since 2012’s acclaimed Big Station, was a highly collaborative affair where he teamed with long time friends Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (R.E.M.,The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows) to co-write the album’s songs, and also enlisted the pair to act as the project’s producer.
Escovedo and The Burn Something Beautiful Band, as they fondly refer to themselves, took some mighty big swings. At once a celebration of the rock and roll life, a contemplation on mortality, and the healing power of love, Burn Something Beautiful connects repeatedly with Escovedo’s soulful heart and voice at its core. Recorded at Portland’s Type Foundry studio, the project coalesced with the help of an esteemed group of musicians who give the album a genuine band feel. They include guitarist Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks), drummer John Moen (The Decemberists), vocalists Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) and Kelly Hogan (Neko Case, The Flat Five) as well as saxophonist Steve Berlin (Los Lobos). The record took Escovedo and three incarnations of bands on a year-long journey across the US and Europe. He will release a new record on Yep Roc later this year.
“You just do your good work, and people care,” Alejandro says. “I always believed, when I was a kid, that if you worked hard, you would find fulfillment. I think I got a lot of that from my father and my brothers. A working musician is all I ever wanted to be. Hard work, stay true to what you want to do, and then eventually someone would notice for that very reason.”
Alejandro’s many gifts are revealed across a lifetime spent in dedication to and faith in the hard work of life and music…and its possibilities. Refusing to go unnoticed.
“Musically, Alejandro Escovedo is in his own genre.” – David Fricke, Rolling Stone
“There are songwriters who sing their songs, and then there are songs who sing their writers.” – Lenny Kaye ( Patti Smith Band)
“A masterwork from one of the genuine lights in rock music.”- Billboard
“Escovedo has blended the lyricism of Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne with the raw power of the Stooges and the Velvet Underground…the result is music with heart, brains, and a burning sense of adventure.”– Mark Kemp, Rolling Stone
“The performances were lush and full…it was truly a treat to hear these songs with such a rich resonance that only added to their depth and beauty.” – Front Row Center
“Alejandro Escovedo likes songs with stories; tonight, he was, the American story.” – The Boston Globe
“Alejandro Escovedo is one of the great songwriters of our time.” – Time Out Philadelphia
“Alejandro Escovedo was like a lean slice of nighttime that had found its way into a sunny afternoon. That set was rumbling roots-punk guitar gunslinging at its most fierce and hip. After a long afternoon on a festival stage, the 60-something Escovedo still bristled with energy. Cool cats get nine lives. Ticking it off on your fingers, it seems as if the Texas songwriter must have cycled through all of those and then some.” – Allison Fernstock, New Orleans Times-Picayune
Panhandle Rambler is Joe Ely back home, returned to the always dusty, perpetually
windy, generally arid, frequently smoldering, and seemingly barren landscape around
Lubbock where he grew up and first began playing music. A place that has hosted
generations of dry land farmers and wildcatters. It’s where Joe found his calling as a
writer and performer. First located that unmistakable voice. Learned to carry himself
upright and open, to move with determination.
In the rock’n’roll era, the vast spaces of west Texas have been filled with great music.
Joe Ely stands in a tradition born out on these gritty plains. It includes Roy Orbison,
Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker, Guy Clark, Delbert McClinton,
Don Walser, Terry Allen, Lloyd Maines, his daughter Natalie Maines, and Joe’s enduring
musical partners, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
It is a land where you can see for miles and miles and miles. Only those who don’t know
it find it barren. For it’s full of stories if you know where to seek them. And it has
customs and amusements all its own. Even the forever dipping oil wells have their role.
“In high school, we used to get somebody to buy us a six pack and go out there to the
fields and ride the front part of those oil pumps all night long,” Joe remembers.
Now, Ely lives in Austin and spends much of his life on the road. But when
he’s accumulated enough song ideas, Lubbock is where Joe heads. “Somehow, just
driving for hours down those country roads is still the best place for me finish my
Panhandle Rambler is one of the most personal albums Joe Ely’s ever made. It brings
forth this terrain, the spirited people it produces and that special sense of destiny, be it
terrible or glorious, that its very vastness creates. “Wounded Creek” starts the album
with what you might call a Western fantasy, except that the “bushes and the brambles,”
the traffic light, the stray dog and the cold wind are all completely brought to life.
“Sometimes, when I was a kid, you’d look outside and the only things you’d see would
be these huge radio towers, must have been fifty of a hundred feet tall, just swaying
in the wind,” Joe said. “Wonderin’ Where,” perhaps Panhandle Rambler’s most beautiful
melody, pays tribute to those trembling towers, the railroads which carried other things
equally unimaginable distances, the “cross between a river and a stream” where he
played, and the dreams and nightmares that flitted across that kid’s mind and heart,
and the loneliness of bearing such secrets. If it is possible to write a love song for a
place, this is one of the great ones, “trying to find a verse that’s never been sung
to hearts that need relief.”
“Here’s to the Weary” is the story of all the great musical refugees, from
Woody Guthrie, Bob Wills and Muddy Waters to the rockabillies—Buddy Holly,
Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, the shadows of the others—who soothed our
“weary and restless souls” with nighttime musical magic.
It’s also typical of all the songs on the album. The place doesn’t necessarily always win,
but, as in “Magdalene” and “Coyotes are Howlin’,” it’s the one thing that carries a sense
not so much of permanence as of inevitably. The two sides are fully summarized in the
almost giddy “Southern Eyes” and the fatalistic “Early in the Mornin’.”
Of course, every Lubbocker album needs its legendary tales. Here that territory is
covered by “Four Ol’ Brokes,” which combines a hobo yarn with the ballad of
a gambling scam, and “Burden of Your Load,” in which true love triumphs over evil, if
just barely, we hope.
Equally legendary, but true in every respect, is the closing song, “You Saved Me,” which
is a love song to Joe’s wife, Sharon. The lyric never mentions her name, but no one
who’s known Joe Ely longer than about a day could mistake her.
Legendary tales and legendary musicians. Panhandle Rambler, largely recorded in
Austin, features some of the most respected local musicians: drummer Davis McClarty,
guitarists Lloyd Maines and Robbie Gjersoe, Jeff Plankenhorm, and Gary Nicholson,
bassist Glen Fukunaga. There were also Nashville sessions, with Music City’s usual
superb playing, led by guitarist Gary Nicholson. Joe wrote all but two of the songs:
“Magdalene” by Guy Clark and Ray Stephenson, and “When the Nights are Cold” by his
original Flatlanders sidekick Butch Hancock.
This is a classic Joe Ely album. It has moved me, every time I’ve heard it, with a
certain kind of awe. One reason is that, long before you hear “You Saved Me,” he put
everything he has into telling the world about a place in the world, and through
that, reaching his own emotional center. It’s beautiful and it’s inspiring.