Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alejandro Escovedo Is Still Listening, Still Learning

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Alejandro Escovedo Is Still Listening, Still Learning

Article excerpt

Alejandro Escovedo still pays attention to the musical masters.

Never mind that many would regard Escovedo, 65, as a master himself, having come up through the ranks playing punk rock and cowpunk with his bands the Nuns, Rank and File, and True Believers, then going solo and helping pioneer the genre now known as Americana.

As the years have rolled on, Escovedo's music has come to defy easy classification, but it always packs an emotional wallop. Commercially undervalued, his albums, ranging from his 1992 solo debut, "Gravity," to his most recent, 2012's "Big Station," are revered by critics and peers alike. As they say, he's a "songwriter's songwriter."

Yet rather than natter on about his own bona fides, Escovedo is quick to turn the spotlight on others. He often cites Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground as primary influences; the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog," the Gun Club's "Sex Beat" and Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane" have long been cover tunes at the ready; and this year, Escovedo staged an elaborate celebration of the music of Leonard Cohen in Austin, Texas.

"We never stop learning," Escovedo says by phone from his relatively new home of Dallas, after years spent in Austin. "Those guys are teachers to me. It's important for me to kind of bow at the altar occasionally and learn new teachings."

This has been a particularly mean season for other musicians important to Escovedo, both personally and in terms of his artistry. David Bowie, Prince and Merle Haggard, to name three, all passed away this year.

Bowie's death, he says, "was hard. His constant searching for new things that's always been a huge influence on me. He was a very courageous artist. He wasn't afraid to take chances and to change direction when he could have gotten really comfortable doing something commercial. His presentation was always beautiful. His sense of fashion and design he was just a master of all those things. …

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