Review: Alejandro Escovedo, Echo Dancing

Rechanneling 14 catalog selections’ romantic existentialism

Duke Ellington whammied up a half-century oeuvre that he spent the same career revisiting, revamping, and remixing. Guitar-strapped, not piano-side, Alejandro Escovedo, 73, plies his familial trade longer than that, with writing credits stretching back to the Seventies. Across at least four of those decades in Austin – from orchestra bandleader to Buick MacKane getaway driver – he’s stringed up, stripped down, and electrified his compositions of heart and stones, yet never as revelatory as Echo Dancing.

A one-man Suicide or, locally, Timbuk3 – Brian Eno, even – Escovedo translates a 14-track playlist spanning 70 deep-dive minutes from iconic 20th century (boy) analog to new millennial ghosts in the machine. Digital, dubby, deconstructionist, Echo Dancing transmits a Johnny Cash American Recordings quality. As songs peel back, Escovedo’s spectral delivery fills the frame.

Glam rocker “Castanets” becomes border radio boombox “Castañuelas,” bouncing and bopping and lurching through neon electronics and a sentient beat. Stooges-like stomper “Everybody Loves Me” thickens distortion into a menacing throb, while “Inside This Dance” vapes on Iggy Pop’s noir patio. “John Conquest” retains side project Buick MacKane’s bristling, static-y riff hotwired atop a rudimentary piano drubbing and drum-machine smackdown.

Recasting not only prolongs a song’s life, but renews it – reinvents it, revitalizes it. Airing out lifetimes locked in a closet of emotional gravity, Echo Dancing rechannels these selections’ romantic existentialism and magical realism into a techno meditation. The lachrymose “Last to Know” breaks orbit from its Earthbound mortality to a space odyssey weightlessness.

By the end, seven-minute interstellar drift “Thought I’d Let You Know” from 2016 workhorse Burn Something Beautiful, both the maestro and his audience crackle electrical impulses.

Alejandro Escovedo celebrates his new album at Antone’s Nightclub on Friday, March 29 with James Mastro.

Alejandro Escovedo

Echo Dancing (Yep Roc)

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