Review: Alejandro Escovedo’s passions elevate ‘The Crossing’
Alejandro Escovedo, “The Crossing” (Yep Roc)
Drawing up a family tree of Alejandro Escovedo’s lengthy career results in a small forest with branches spread out across punk, rock and alt-country. Now 67, he’s been in bands like The Nuns, Rank and File and the True Believers; his family includes niece Sheila E., his brothers were in groups like L.A. punk pioneers the Zeroes, and he’s released over a dozen solo albums since his excellent 1992 debut, “Gravity,” including three thundering collections produced by David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti.
Texas-born to Mexican immigrants, Escovedo describes “The Crossing” as saying “more about me than any of my records, without it being a record about me.” Nominally, the songs are about a pair of immigrants — Salvo from Italy, Diego from Mexico — whose Texan experiences with the American Dream don’t quite match their expectations. But mentions of the Zeroes, the Stooges, Johnny Thunders, MC5, the Plugz and other marvels of American culture, as well as U.S. and Mexican writers and poets, put Escovedo in the middle of the story, even if it may not really be him.
Recorded in Italy with local band Don Antonio, whose leader Antonio Gramentieri co-wrote the album, and with a handful of guests like fellow Texan Joe Ely (excellent on his Warren Zevon-like ballad “Silver City”) and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, “The Crossing” has a story that doesn’t bode well, even if it claims to have no ending: “If I could make a wish/We’d never gotten into this.”
“Sonica USA” rocks mightily, Tex-Mex elevates “Outlaw for You” and the narration on “Rio Navidad,” where Diego encounters a retired Texas Ranger at a San Antonio wedding, gives it a powerful emotional kick.
“The Crossing” includes some instrumentals, an Italian lyric and a fluid timeline but its most urgent songs — describing intersecting journeys with divergent destinations — are reflective, passionate and defiant, like Escovedo himself.