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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

29. Alejandro Escovedo: Bourbonitis Blues

I do not claim to always know of what I speak. Those of you who choose to have conversations with me daily can attest to that. However, when it comes to writing, I usually research like nobody's bidness! I've had lots of fun reviewing the first 28 albums on Marc, Turn That Down! I enjoy sharing the music I like with you and sharing what I know from my own experience. It's important, as a writer, to write about what you know, and up to now, the albums I've reviewed have been some of my best friends. It's been easy to write about them. I do enjoy researching each particular album and sharing what I learn after looking for that extra tidbit of interesting info...a piece that might nudge a reader to try something new.  And now, I am going out on a limb at #29 with Alejandro Escovedo's 1999 album Bourbonitis Blues, because it breaks the mold...shuns the format....ixnay with the atternpay. Of Bourbonitis Blues and Alejandro Escovedo I knew next to nothing last week. It was the unwelcome visit to the east coast by Hurricane Irene that is responsible for today's post...but we'll put a pin in that...I'll explain in a bit.

Alejandro Escovedo was there when punk began...first-wave punk called The Nuns (big enough and punk enough to open The Sex Pistols' last show). The Escovedos are a big Mexican-American family...mostly all musicians (including his niece, drummer Sheila E...see...there's one of those tidbits of info). I mention his family because when the 80s came around he changed his style to more of a roots rock/alternative country sound (in the bands Rank and File and True Believers with his brother Javier). However, it wasn't until the 1990's and the release of his first solo albums that he really found himself, musically speaking.

Bourbonitis Blues was Escovedo's sixth solo album containing nine songs (five of which are cover songs); which leads me to Hurricane Irene and how I came to write about this album. I wanted to be funny and liven the spirits of friends and family on the east coast by posting a song's video on facebook about "Irene" (as if that's all it would've taken..."We're anticipating one of the scariest moments of our lives, but look Honey...Marc posted a video of a song with the word 'Irene' in the title. Everything's going to be just fine now!"). So, while searching my iTunes library to see if I had any "Irene" songs, I came across "Irene Wilde" by Escovedo (I've had this album for a long time, but really never gave it any play). As I listened to see if it was the song that would make everyone smile...make them forget about the impending onslaught bearing down upon them I was. I know that sounds silly, but, at that moment, it was one of the most magnificent songs I had ever heard. I don't know why I never "heard" it before. Anyway, I didn't post it on facebook. I decided to devote some time to it and now, here it is.

"Irene Wilde" is a beautiful song written in 1976 by Ian Hunter (of Mott The Hoople). It's the story of Hunter's rise to stardom as a result of his being rejected at 16 by his lifelong desire, and Escovedo's acoustic guitar and string arrangement does it some wonderful justice. It's a song with a familiar feel. I don't think I'd ever heard it before, but it sure sounded like the comfort of an old blanket. Other cover songs include a wispy-soft "Pale Blue Eyes" (Velvet Underground), the pretty "Amsterdam" by John Cale, and a super version...lazy and strange...of The Gun Club's "Sex Beat" (a song from my recent list). One standout from his original tracks is the lead song "I Was Drunk", a slow-rolling tale spun from an experience common to many. Other essential songs include "Everybody Loves Me"(the chorus of which I can imagine being sung loudly by a bar full of drunks), and "Sacramento & Polk" which harkens back to days of punk...powerful guitars that start loud and stay there until the soft surprise of a violin finish.

Bourbonitis Blues is all I know of Alejandro Escovedo, but it won't be for long. Most reviews of this album steer the reader toward other Escovedo releases..."better" ones. I can't wait to check on that. Here is a video for "I Was Drunk" with Escovedo (a fine guitarist in his own right) playing alongside the incredible David Pulkingham in 2007 (Pulkingham's expertise kicks in around the 2:35 mark). A live and loose version of "Irene Wilde" follows. The images are somewhat blurry and annoying, and the song seems more haphazard than planned, but its beauty shines through just the same.

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