Album of the month 9/10 Texan roots-rock maestro gets radical with his own past


ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO didn’t intend to revisit his back catalogue. Indeed, he was all set on cutting a new studio album. But something triggered a change of plan. The prospect of reshaping his old compositio­ns, he decided, would be more intriguing. “I always feel that a well-written song can withstand a lot of abuse,” he explains.

On one level, Echo Dancing is a kind of companion piece to 2020’s La Cruzada, a Spanish-language version of The Crossing, released a couple of years earlier. Only this time he’s thrown open the remit to cover the greater portion of his career, from ’80s cowpunks True Believers to La Cruzada itself. Escovedo cites Brian Eno, Judy Nylon and Suicide as chief touchstone­s here, the latter’s in„uence most palpable on “Sacramento & Polk”, which strips away the gnarly rock of its ’90s incarnatio­n in favour of a drum machine, juddery synth tremors and nervy piano. The same applies to the terri c “Bury Me”. Once a tasteful highlight of 1992 solo debut Gravity, Escovedo gives it an abrasive makeover, his voice every inch as charged as the clanging electronic­a surroundin­g him. Essentiall­y a song about dying young, written as Escovedo turned 40, it now feels like a wilfully obdurate dispatch from a man in his early seventies, facing down the justice tree of the lyrics.

The opening half of Echo Dancing is full of such galvanic noise, particular­ly the unruly “John Conquest”, a thrillingl­y distorted take of a song from Escovedo’s old Austin quartet, Buick Mackane. By the second half, he’s gone into re„ective mode, making a spare piano ballad of 2008’s John Caleish “Sensitive Boys” and completely dialling back “MC Overload”’s rock bluster for minimal guitar, ambience and a so–ly decorous sax break from Gianni Perinelli. Escovedo and his two multi-instrument­alist companions – Don Antonio and Nicola Peruch – are clearly having a riot here, tearing apart and recon guring these songs, underlinin­g the strength and elastic durability of the originals in the process. Bold, brilliant and experiment­al.

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