MUSIC: Alejandro Escovedo Wows at Narrows Center
Thursday, April 24, 2014
His Own Genre
Escovedo’s style is a little hard to categorize. Rolling Stone writer David Fricke noted “Musically, (he) is in his own genre.” He’s right - who needs labels anyway! This tex-mex-alt-roots-rock-country artist satisfies the soul. He’s highly regarded in the Roots Rock/Alt-Country community, and was named “Artist of the Decade” in 1998 by No Depression magazine.
He’s a brilliant songwriter, with lyrics full of depth and passion, and a little humor in the mix. He’s feted by none other than Bruce Springsteen, with whom he recorded “Always a Friend” in 2008. In a sense, Escovedo is to Texas as Springsteen is to Jersey, spinning stories of struggle, pain, and hope in his lyrics and banter between songs.
Like Springsteen, the stories are very real, but the tone is uplifting; there's a redemptive quality that drives his music. That, along with his authentic personality and a good measure of guitar fuzz, drives his kick-ass band, the Sensitive Boys to great heights.
Rock and Roll
He opened with several upbeat rockers including “Can’t Make Me Run” and “Bottom of the World” (a place called Houston, TX) from 2012’s Big Station. “Sensitive Boy,” from the Real Animal album was another early show highlight.
One of his signature tunes, “Wave,” followed. It tells the story of his father uprooting the family and moving them to California when he was a child. In 2002, he explored this theme on his semi-documentary “By the Hand of the Father,” a story about the Mexican-American experience.
“Castanets,” another well-liked tune, was next, “about a lovely girl with no sense of rhythm,” he noted wryly. The no nonsense attitude sprinkled with a little humor makes this song memorable.
“She plays castanets, she works without a net
I like her better when she walks away
She turns me on like a pick-up truck
I like her better when she walks away…”
It’s no secret that Escovedo barely survived a health scare in 2003 when he contracted Hepatitis C. At the time, his friends (Lucinda Williams, Los Lonely Boys, Cowboy Junkies and many more) pitched in and recorded a two disc set, Por Vida, to help defer the cost of mounting medical bills. In one of his best songs, “Arizona,” he reflects on the life changes he needed to make at the time:
“Have another drink on me
I’ve been empty since Arizona
I turned my back on me
And faced the face of who I thought I was."
Like A Hurricane
Escovedo knows how to re-interpret cover songs - he did justice with "Strait to Hell," a classic by The Clash, and rocked hard with his band on Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane,” arguably the greatest grunge-rock song ever recorded. His version rivals the original, complete with Pete Townshend windmills, and guitar distortion galore.
It’s worth remembering that this artist once played in a band that opened for the Sex Pistols final show. After almost 40 years in the music business, he’s a musician on top of his game, still writing soulful ballads and edgy rock songs. And by the look of things on Saturday night, he’s enjoying every moment of it!
Fellow Austin based singer-songwriter Amy Cook opened the show. Her smooth delivery and airy lilt delighted the crowd – she a mellow folk artist who has a voice like Edie Brickell, with a dash of Rickie Lee Jones thrown in. Cook’s a roots rocker with pop sensibilities, a product of her early years in California, where several of her songs were included on popular TV shows like Dawson’s Creek, Veronica Mars, and The “L” Word.
Cook impressed the audience with heartfelt confessionals from her own recordings, along with a stunning cover of Blondie’s “Dreaming.” Accompanied by only her guitar and a pedal or two, she strummed though “Its Gonna Rain,” a song she recorded with Robert Plant on supporting vocals. (Yes, that Robert Plant!)
Another highlight was “Summer Skin,” the title tune from her latest album, a brilliant song of loss and redemption. The arrangement is sparse - the lyrics penetrating:
“Well I laid back and I lost track, Sleeping on the waves till dawn
Done is done, gone is gone, Pick up your feet and you carry on
I will shed my summer skin, Never come back this way again”
Cook closed with “I Wake Up,” a warm love song from Summer Skin. She’s a top notch singer and songwriter – her voice easy on the ears, her lyrics direct and convincing. I highly recommend giving her a listen.
Ken Abrams reviews roots, rock and blues for GoLocal. Click here to e-mail him.
Related Slideshow: 13 Biggest Music Stories in RI in 2013
13. Macauley + Carlton
Local music legend John Macauley of Deer Tick, and world renowned singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton came to Providence in January to headline a show to benefit The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence.
Here is music critic Rob Duguay's review of the show:
This past Saturday at the upstairs stage of The Columbus Theatre on Broadway in the heart of the West End of Providence, a magnificent display of music took place to benefit The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. Deer Tick's John McCauley & Ian O'Neil, Vanessa Carlton, Smoota and Caroline Hecht were on a star-studded bill for an experience that was guaranteed to be a memorable one. It's always great when talented people come together for a worthy cause, and in this day and age this was needed more than ever. Read More
12. Carolina Choc Drops
Bringing an eclectic mixture of Piedmont blues, country, ragtime jazz, and traditional folk, the Carolina Chocolate Drops came into town to headline a Sunday night show at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in April.
GoLocal Music Critic was there for the show, and he claimed this to be one of the best shows he attended in 2013:
Class was in session Sunday night at Lupo’s as theCarolina Chocolate Drops provided a crash course in traditional African American music. Their style, which fuses Piedmont Blues, jug band country, ragtime jazz and traditional folk, delighted the crowd. Sounding straight out of a juke joint in Mississippi, (or North Carolina, where the band hails from), their music is infectious. Read More
11. Artistic Explosion
Featuring some of the best local acts from all different genres, GoLocal music critic Rob Duguay organized the first annual Artistic Explosion Music Festival, a week-long multi-venue show to raise money for Girls Rock! and the Rhode Island Music Educators Association.
By all counts, the event was a tremendous success.
10. 24 Hour Music Project
For the second straight year, Kim "Giggles" Madden put together Providence's 24 Hour Music Project benefit. This year, all proceeds from the event and concert went to benefit music education in Rhode Island's public schools.
Rob Duguay was on hand for the CD release party in October:
One of the most inspiring things I've encountered in Providence is the 24 Hour Music Project. Started by Kim "Giggles" Madden last year, a star-studded compilation album of the Creative Capital's finest musicians benefits victims of domestic violence. This time around, another album was made to benefit music education in public schools, another noble cause with an ensemble cast of local musical talents. On Sunday at The Spot, the release of the second 24 Hour Music Project album was celebrated with an amazing show that had Dan Dodd, Dylan Sevey & The Gentlemen, Wake and Baker, P. Lowe, Galactic Alliance and Resin ED jammin' on two stages. There's no better way to spend your Sunday than supporting a great cause, and the Spot was the prime destination to do just that. Read More
9. Colexico at The Met
Tuscon Arizona's Colexico, according to GoLocal music critic Ken Abrams, sounds like "a Tex-Mex meal - you don’t always know exactly what’s in it, but it tastes delicious."
Well, Colexico paid a visit to the Ocean State in June, and Abrams was in the crowd for the festivities.
8. Buddy Guy
Since Park Theatre massive renovation and reopening, the Cranston venue has become a great spot for live music in Rhode Island, and have drawn some very impressive names.
In October, blues legend Buddy Guy stopped by, and music critic Ken Abrams was there:
Last Friday night at the Park Theatre, the nation’s leading ambassador of the Blues made a triumphant stop in Rhode Island. For the second consecutive year, Buddy Guy filled the Park to its 1006-seat capacity, a rare feat for a performer labeled a “Blues” artist. Before the night ended, it was clear why – he is one of the finest performers on tour today. Read More
7. The Temptaions
Legendary Detroit Motown band, the Temptations stopped by Cranston's Park Theatre in December, bringing with them their classics.
Music critic Ken Abrams was front and center for this once-in-a-lifetime R&B experience:
A warm welcome greeted The Temptations Sunday night in Cranston as the Park Theatre hosted a sold out show by the legendary Detroit band. The award winning R&B group thrilled those in attendance with classic hits along with some new songs. Read More
6. Chris Cornell
Legendary Seattle grunge rocker Chris Cornell is known for rocking hard with Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, and Pearl Jam; but when he came into Providence in November, he left the wires behind for an acoustic show on the newly-renovated stage at The Vets:
Normally, one would think of Chris Cornell as the vocalist who can peel the paint off walls with Seattle legends Soundgarden, but recently he's been doing a solo acoustic tour that's been getting a lot of attention. This past Tuesday he made a stop at The Veterans Memorial Auditorium for an experience that exuded soothing songs that hit straight to the heart. Bhi Bhiman opened things up as well, it was going to a memorable evening. Chris Cornell at his genuine best, what more could you ask for? Read More
5. B.B. King
What could be better than a warm summer night in Newport? How about when you are there to see THE name in Blues, BB King? Well, GoLocal Music criticRob Duguay was lucky enough to be in attendance for this show at the Newport Yachting Center in July:
As a live music fanatic, when I hear that a legend is coming through The Ocean State it's a no-brainer that I have to come check it out. When it's a bluesman like B.B. King performing, saying its a no-brainer is a vast understatement, it's more like a spiritual expedition. The King Of The Blues headlined a fantastic night at The Newport Yachting Center as part of The Sunset Music Series with Providence rocksteady soul group Boo City opening up the show, you knew it was going to be one of the top shows of the summer. The whole time I was here I had to remind myself that one of my favorite musicians of all time in B.B. King as well as pinch myself a few times. The guy is pushing 90 and still tours like he was in his mid-20s and still can strum Lucille better than anybody else, Newport was definitely the hotspot for a once in a lifetime chance to see a musician who will go down as one of the greatest ever. Read More
4. Bob Dylan at URI
Legendary singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan passed through the Ocean State in April, making a stop at URI's Ryan Center. GoLocal music critic Ken Abrams made the trek down to South County for the show:
Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour” rolled into the Ryan Center on Monday night. The band is currently on a college campus swing, and featured a new addition, RI’s own Duke Robillard on lead guitar. Read More
3. Sir Elton John
A Dunkin Donuts Center crowed was graced by the presence of music royalty in November when Elton John came into Providence for an unforgettable 28-song performance:
Elton John made a triumphant return to Providence Saturday night, making the Dunkin Donuts Center the second stop on his Diving Board Tour. Expectations were high for the near capacity crowd and Sir Elton did not disappoint. He covered a number of hits in his 28 song set, including a full album side from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Read More
2. The Who
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend; the remaining members of one of the most highly-celebrated rock and roll supergroup of all-time, the Who, finished up the US leg of their World Tour at the Dunkin Donuts Center in February:
On Tuesday at The Dunkin' Donuts Center in downtown Providence, rock & roll legends The Who rocked the joint for the last show of the United States leg of The Quadrophenia and More Tour that has been sweeping the globe since last year. Opening the night were Los Angeles' rock & roll souls Vintage Trouble and it was bound to be one of the memorable shows in Providence's music history. There are rock bands and then there's The Who, it was very clear that the best way to enjoy the first half of your week was to be at The Dunk on Tuesday. Read More
1. Newport Festivals
Summer in Newport -- shopping, beaches, sailing, dining, and LIVE MUSIC. Aquidneck Island comes alive when the weather warms up, and once you get beyond Thames Street, music festivals dominate the scene. In 2013, GoLocal' music critics were on hand for three great music festivals in Newport:
Celtic Rock Festival- Headlined by the Dropkick Murphy's
Newport Folk Festival- Featuring Beck, John Macauley, and the Avett Brothers
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