A Man Under the Influence (Bloodshot)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., April 27, 2001
A Man Under the Influence (Bloodshot)Five long years after his big shot at international acclaim, 1996's handsome With These Hands on Rykodisc, Austin's high priest of velvet rock is back to the masterful form that produced his first two local releases, '92's rapturous Gravity and its bookend, Thirteen Years. Whereas the old cow-punk's first two efforts for Chicago's home of twang, Bloodshot Records, held their ground -- 1998's live career summation More Mile Than Money: Live 1994-'96, and '99's odds and sods one-off Bourbonitis Blues --third time's obviously the charm as A Man Under the Influence staggers forward with the grit and grace of its author's human condition. Suite-like in its sad melodies and thematic thrust, Escovedo's sixth full-length finds him in his natural state: bloodied but unbowed in the face of love's continual dissolution and regeneration. Producer and former dBs-er Chris Stamey deserves credit for the LP's overall cohesion of sound, while Escovedo has stripped his usually spare songwriting style to a simple, fully matured organic whole. Certainly the fact that melancholy openers "Wave" and "Rosalie" are taken from Escovedo's play By the Hand of the Father figures into the equation; the album plays like one song that keeps unfolding in Cassavettian emotional turmoil. Uptempo rockers "Castanets" and "Velvet Guitar" are welcome, but it's the mournful, midalbum trilogy of "Don't Need You," "Follow You Down," and "Wedding Day" that define A Man Under the Influence with their world-weary romanticism. I'll have whatever he's drinking.