Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., June 22, 2012
Alejandro EscovedoBig Station (Fantasy)
"I'm a man of the world/It ain't no thing," crows Alejandro Escovedo on Big Station siren "Man of the World," the kick-off rocker's rejoining rhyme delivered in a full barroom brawl flush. "I can take a punch/I can take a swing!" Austin's champion middleweight has thrown one roundhouse after another with famed Bowie/T. Rex/Thin Lizzy producer Tony Visconti for three straight LPs, and while a trilogy grouping of Real Animal (2008), Street Songs of Love (2010), and now Big Station seems inevitable given their interlocking themes of redemption through a lifetime of rock and punk, each stands alone. Like the producer's late-Seventies Bowie/Brian Eno triptych Low, Heroes, and Lodger, Escovedo and Visconti's collaborations are united through sonic constancy, yet sculpt works of individual awakening. Real Animal remains the cosmopolitan brawler, Street Songs of Love prowls a back-alley urbanity, and Big Station orbits Texan heterogeneity. This is Escovedo's most diverse collection of material since 2006 John Cale production The Boxing Mirror. A Bowie-esque acoustic bruiser, the title track acts as bookend to the desert drone of "Too Many Tears," both meeting at the intersection of "Sally Was a Cop," a border ballad of murder and corruption. "Sally" bridges analog warmth to new millennial coding, Ephraim Owens' mariachi trumpet accenting tight, digital corners. The local horn man's detailing on "Can't Make Me Run" feeds a similarly progressive and percussive pulse. Where Real Animal and Street Songs of Love strutted through New York on "Chelsea Hotel '78" and "Down in the Bowery" respectively – venturing between California ("Hollywood Hotel," "Swallows of San Juan") and Texas as well ("Fort Worth Blue") – Austin receives a standout shout-out in "Bottom of the World" and Escovedo's birthplace gets the ultimate paean in "San Antonio Rain." Backend tossers are easily excised ("Party People"), and Escovedo/Visconti's Dylan-esque "Headstrong Crazy Fools" smacks of studio not-so-brainstorming, but Mexican standard "Sabor a Mi," sung by Escovedo in Spanish, crowns Big Station as a Southwestern touchstone.