Journeyman singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo has performed solo for a number of years now, but he sure has played in a lot of bands, too. It's a theme that recurs throughout his latest album, Real Animal. A loose memoir of sorts, the album's subject matter and styles span Escovedo's 30-year musical career, touching on some key locations, bands, and relationships that Escovedo passed through along the way.
As a member of the San Francisco punk outfit the Nuns, Escovedo holds the somewhat dubious honor of opening up the Sex Pistols' last show, in 1978. Fed up with punk's encroaching suburbanness and self-destruction, he fled to New York's Chelsea Hotel, only to soon watch from the sidewalk as Sid Vicious' and Nancy Spungen's bodies were removed. Later, as a member of Rank and File, he helped pioneer "cow punk" or "alt-country" before those terms existed, and went on to play in similar groups like the True Believers and Buick McKane, before finally going solo.
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Real Animal, meanwhile, is triumphant both in sound and in its mere existence. His second album since a highly publicized bout with Hepatitis C that nearly cost him his life, the disc sees Escovedo returning to a more rocking approach after his initial return to music. This time, aided by legendary David Bowie/T. Rex producer Tony Visconti and co-writer Chuck Prophet, Escovedo clearly sounds energized. He does indeed revisit some difficult memories, and fills the songs with plenty of the sobering commentary that only a person who is wise from being wounded can offer. But still, Escovedo's voice carries at least a hint of celebration all the way down to the last track.
Alejandro Escovedo, with the Randall Bramblett Band. Sunday, January 18. Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $14.99. 954-564-1074, www.cultureroom.net.
-- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni