Alejandro Escovedo

Journeyman singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo has performed solo for a number of years, 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 disc spans Escovedo's 30-year musical career, touching on key locations, bands, and relationships he passed through along the way.

As a member of the San Francisco punk outfit the Nuns, Escovedo holds the somewhat dubious honor of opening 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's 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 such as the True Believers and Buick McKane, before finally going solo.

Real Animal, meanwhile, is triumphant in both sound and mere existence. His second album since a highly publicized bout with hepatitis C that nearly cost him his life, the CD 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.

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Saby Reyes-Kulkarni