Alejandro Escovedo

Record review

Texas Platters

Alejandro Escovedo

The Boxing Mirror (Back Porch)

Five years between albums can be a lifetime for most musicians, and no more so than for Austin's Alejandro Escovedo. The journeyman singer-songwriter-rocker's near death bout with hepatitis C left his loyal fan base holding their collective breath in hope that he would survive until such a feat was possible. The Boxing Mirror traces Escovedo's journey from his collapse in "Arizona" to his current resurrection into health, imagination, and enlightenment. It's accomplished with a variety of familiar soundscapes, from the boldly orchestral and sweetly intimate to the harshly raucous, all tweaked by producer and Velvet Underground visionary John Cale, whose sonic abrasion and density offers a contrast to his friend's past work. Escovedo diverges even further with the employment of lyrics written by his wife, poet Kim Christoff, on the austere and abstract "Deer Head on the Wall" and foreboding, psychedelic "Notes on Air." His genius is on bold display in the way he intertwines the raw beauty of tunes like "The Ladder," a ballad for Christoff, and "Evita's Lullaby," about his mother's love for his deceased father, with the urgent, Velvets-esque drone of "Break This Time" and the ferocious pounding and vivid imagery of attempted suicide on "Sacramento & Polk." To a stately military beat, Escovedo ties things up with the title track, the fighting metaphor relating both to his life and his father's. It's a battle he's won, for now, and the victory is thrilling and distinctively gracious. (CD Release Fiestas: Waterloo Records and the Cactus Cafe, Friday, May 12. Continental Club, Saturday, May 13.)

***.5

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