Friday Top 5: Alejandro Escovedo

This week on the Friday Top 5, we’re taking a look at the music of one of my very favorite artists… Alejandro Escovedo. I wrote a bit about Alejandro before in one of my very first posts here.

Of course, one of the things I love most about his music is how many styles and influences go into his sound. Escovedo draws from pop, country, punk, folk, border radio, and just about any other musical form you can imagine. He then manages to blend all of those disparate sounds into something new that is warm and familiar while also being totally unique to him and him alone. I think the five songs I’ve chosen here (from five different albums) do a good job of showcasing the wide range of his influences and talents.

The first tune comes from Escovedo’s debut solo disc, 1992’s Gravity. “Five Hearts Breaking” is one of the first Escovedo tunes I ever heard and one that certainly made me want to hear more. Acoustic and electric guitars, strings, organ, piano, and percussion all swirl together to create that sound that is totally his.

Next is “Put You Down” from 1996’s With These Hands. This song is simply obsession set to a loping bass line and building to a crashing, guitar fueled, chorus.

My favorite Escovedo song, “Castanets,” comes from my favorite Escovedo album (2001’s A Man Under the Influence), and is one of my favorite songs of all time… period. The guitar lick on this song sets the track on fire and refuses to be extinguished for the next 3:27. This is, in my opinion, one of the great barroom rock songs ever recorded, and I will not be happy until everyone knows this tune.

Following a nearly fatal battle with Hepatitis C, Escovedo released The Boxing Mirror in 2006, his first album in over four years. “Arizona” is a song about his brush with the disease (Escovedo collapsed and nearly died shortly after a performance in Tempe in 2003.) and his time spent recuperating in the Arizona desert. This is a deeply personal song dealing with sobriety and mortality.

Finally, I give you “Always a Friend” from Escovedo’s latest masterpiece, Real Animal. This is the song that Peter Blackstock of No Depression calls the best “single” he has ever recorded. It’s hard to argue with him… probably my favorite song of 2008 so far.

Alejandro Escovedo: Five Hearts Breaking (Buy Album)
Alejandro Escovedo: Put You Down (Buy Album)
Alejandro Escovedo: Castanets (Buy Album)
Alejandro Escovedo: Arizona (Buy Album)
Alejandro Escovedo: Always a Friend (Buy Album)

Bonus track: Above is the studio version of “Put You Down” from the album, With These Hands. The bonus track is a live recording of the same song from a double album called Room of Songs. This recording features Alejandro Escovedo’s string quintet and highlights yet another facet of his sound.

Alejandro Escovedo String Quintet: Put You Down (Buy Album)

One Response to “Friday Top 5: Alejandro Escovedo”

  1. “Always A Friend” is one of the catchiest tunes Alejandro has ever recorded, and it’s also one of my favorites of the year! Great picks here!

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