Street Songs of Love (Fantasy)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., July 16, 2010
Alejandro EscovedoStreet Songs of Love (Fantasy)
At KGSR's 2008 anniversary concert, when asked how his heralded Real Animal had performed at market, Alejandro Escovedo scowled. "The same," he said. We were both disappointed. Always the bridesmaid. Or is that Animal gateway "Always a Friend" never the bride? Either way, now nine solo studio LPs into his celebrated career, commercial accounting never stopped Austin's Stonesy VU Stooge from delivering hit discs and then following them up in one manner or another. Debut Gravity spun off enough emotional baggage for Thirteen Years two years later in 1994, while his third album and first for a major indie, Rykodisc's superb With These Hands, yielded tour diary More Miles Than Money: Live 1994-1996. Next plateau, Cassavetes verité A Man Under the Influence ("Castanets," "Velvet Guitar," 2001), was succeeded by a music play: By the Hand of the Father. This time, Real Animal tamer Tony Visconti (Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy) again harnesses Escovedo considerably more effectively than Stephen Bruton, Chris Stamey, and John Cale at a juncture in the local rocker's four-decade career when he enjoys a stable national profile. Street Songs of Love continues that instinctive trend, though profits are down. Midtempo weigh-in "Anchor" opens the proceedings with the crimson pirate's truest lyrical tattoo, "I'm in love with love," then follows it with a "Silver Cloud" ("I'm a fool for your love"). Third track "This Bed Is Getting Crowded" is the charm. Meaty, swaggering, streetwalking cheetah and kissing cousin to Escovedo live staple "Everybody Loves Me," the king-sized sleeper's been a kill since the singer debuted the song last year. At 3:16, it's the raw power Escovedo devotees lust for. Segued out of "This Bed Is Getting Crowded," the title track rams that momentum home on another tough bassline and drummer Hector Muñoz's 400-pound-guerrilla backbeat, Escovedo's urban blues rap as precise (the way he pops "pot") as its brain stain every time KUT spins it into the local Top 40. SSOL's interior triptych then completes on NYC street hustle "Down in the Bowery," Mott the Hoople's Ian Hunter adding a gutter verse and harmonies. That Stonesian sway is in turn swatted away by "Bed" bookend "Tender Heart," a three-alarm sawtooth stomper clocking in at 2:26. Beware the real animal. Sustainability being what it is, Street Song's second half tends toward the diaphanous, "Down in the Bowery" getting a run for its loose change in the car-hood astronomy of "After the Meteor Showers" before "Tula" comes on through an opium dream. Kickers "Undesired" and "Shelling Rain" neither embarrass nor distinguish, particularly in the face of penultimate bell-ringer "Faith," proclaimed hungrily by Bruce Springsteen, whose management counts Escovedo in its tight inner circle, God bless them. Springsteen and Escovedo together miss only Little Steven's yowl for a Highwayman's rock assembly. Closer "Fort Worth Blue" laps a languid reminder of Escovedo's love of Santo & Johnny instrumental "Sleep Walk." Street Songs of Love, blood from a stone.