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Alejandro Escovedo's United Sounds of Austin

Alejandro Escovedo, Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Lucinda Williams, Kimmie Rhodes, Rosie Flores, Roky Erickson, the Skunks, True Believers, Dr. James Polk, Elias Haslanger, Denny Freeman, and Steve James

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Jan. 17, 2014

Alejandro Escovedo
Alejandro Escovedo
Photos by Todd V. Wolfson

Alejandro Escovedo's United Sounds of Austin

ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Jan. 11

Introducing his curated tour through Austin music history, Alejandro Escovedo warned that no presentation on the subject could be justifiably comprehensive. Nevertheless, Austin's ever-ambitious pater familias threw everything he and his parade of stars had into a three-and-a-half-hour oral/aural soundscape.

Marlon Sexton questing with show closers the Painted Redstarts
Marlon Sexton questing with show closers the Painted Redstarts

While the cast talking and singing anchored the epic show – most notably Lucinda Williams, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Rosie Flores, Roky Erickson, and Terry Allen – the narratives weaving together the disparate threads of local musical legacies made the night truly unique. From Dr. James Polk reminiscing on Austin's indelible Eastside roots and Los Texmaniacs' covering conjunto's influence to Jim Franklin's hilarious introduction to "the situation we know as Roky Erickson," the stage reveled in the city's musical biodiversity.

The Bells of Joy initiated the show with their 1951 gospel hit "Let's Talk About Jesus" before Flores and Hancock duetted on "The Austin Waltz" and Steve James tore into Alfred "Snuff" Johnson's "Hobo Blues." Ephraim Owens and Elias Haslanger joined Polk to explore the jazz heritage with "Buffalo," while Williams' new Janis Joplin-inspired "Port Arthur" and the Lubbock contingent of Allen, Ely, and Hancock hearkened the Sixties songwriter scene. Closing out the first set, Erickson emerged for "Two Headed Dog" and, with Williams joining, "Starry Eyes," the latter better conceived than executed, but nonetheless an exceptional moment.

The second set moved more briskly and lively, Denny Freeman paying tribute to Clifford Antone with Pee Wee Crayton's "Blues After Hours" and Escovedo pouring Michael Martin Murphey's "Alleys of Austin." J.T. Van Zandt's harrowing version of his father's "Tower Song" stunned, before Ely opened the rock with "I Had My Hopes Up High," Williams paid homage to Blaze Foley with her "Drunken Angel," and Kimmie Rhodes, Escovedo, Flores, and Williams provided backing to Allen's "New Delhi Freight Train."

Punk's seismic shift erupted with the Skunks performing "Earthquake Shake" and the Hickoids assaulting the Dicks' "Dead in a Motel Room," Escovedo following up with the gleeful abuse of Butthole Surfers hit "Pepper." He and his True Believers comrade Jon Dee Graham then unleashed the latter's 14-year-old son, William Harries Graham, in the Painted Redstarts, which with fellow scion Marlon Sexton unleashed marching Troobs cover "She's Got." Alejandro Escovedo's homegrown vision of the past ensures Austin's future.

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