It’s considered poor form or sloppy writing to include yourself in a review, but in this case, it serves a point. When I was in high school, I had a major crush on a girl, and I couldn’t get any closer to her than across the room in English class. Then I discovered Ian Hunter’s song “Irene Wilde,” with its scarred but smarter look at the exact same situation I was in, unrequited love, and it gave me hope. Hearing the lines “I’m going to be somebody, someday” made me understand that another human being shared my feelings — it was the first time rock and roll connected with me on a personal level. So when Alejandro Escovedo does his version of “Irene Wilde” on this great record, I understand completely where he’s been — and going. The rest of the record could be polka out-takes, and I would still love it.
Thankfully, it’s not. Drawing heavily on covers, this follow-up to the live More Miles Than Money is a short and sassy display of No Depression magazine’s “Artist of the Decade” in all his styles. From the Jon Langford-sung cover of Jimmie Rogers’ “California Blues” (which is a dead ringer for the late, great Georgia Satellites) to Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes,” with a guest vocal by chanteuse Kelly Hogan, Escovedo and orchestra move effortlessly in and out of musical moods. John Cale’s “Amsterdam” and the Gun Club’s “Sex Beat” round things out along with a few new Escovedo originals, such as “I Was Drunk,” which reminds the listener of “Pissed Off 2 A.M” from With These Hands , and a nod to his punk days in the Nuns — who opened for the Sex Pistols’ last show in San Francisco — with “Everybody Loves Me.” Alejandro Escovedo is a mojo man. Ignore at your own peril.
Bloodshot Records, 912 W. Addison St., Chicago, IL 60613; http://www.bloodshot.com