Written by James Killen
You never know what you are going to get with a new Alejandro Escovedo CD. It might be an acoustic serenade or a psychedelic trip or a string quartet or just pure rock and roll. He started out in the punk scene with The Nuns and went mainstream Rock and Roll with the True Believers and has had numerous solo productions since then. Escovedo has been joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen, who is an avowed fan. Alejandro is a hepatitis C survivor and has recently married and moved to Dallas away from the Austin music scene. “Burn Something Beautiful” definitely qualifies as a rock and roll effort. It’s a collaboration of Escovedo and Peter Buck, guitarist of REM fame.
The first cut, “Horizontal”, starts out with power chords and has a shouted chorus in the old time punk tradition and is a dedication to his new wife, Nancy. “Heartbeat Smile” is a more traditional rock and roll number dedicated to old friends in the Bay Area. The guitar work in “Sunday Morning Feeling” has that clear ringing sound reminiscent of Roger McGuinn.
The tempo slows for “Suit of Lights” that starts with an acoustic intro and tells the story of a man whose best days are behind him and is in need of love more than ever. “Redemption Blues” features a psychedelic distorted guitar lead over an eerie acoustic rhythm speaking of a tortured soul looking for peace.
It’s back to rock and roll in the style of the Rolling Stones with “Shave the Cat” and uses vague references to music of the sixties like “getting off on the thirteenth floor” (Elevators?) and “get off of this cloud”. “Johnny Volume” is full of vague references to Lou Reed and features psychedelic guitar and organ riffs. The rhythm guitar on “Beauty of Your Smile” evokes memories of Ian Hunter and Marc Bolan. “I Don’t want to Play Guitar Anymore” speaks of losing musical inspiration over an ambling fuzz guitar lead.
One can feel a bit of influence from the Beatles on “Beauty and the Buzz” in the lead guitar riffs and the background singing. Escovedo taps into his punk roots again for “Luna De Miel” featuring a driving lead guitar and echoing voice loops.
“Farewell to the Good Times” is built around an REM style guitar riff (thank you Mr. Buck) and is a bittersweet salute to times gone by and a dedication to the loving relationships left in their wake. The theme of leaving the past behind continues in the closing number “Thought I’d Let You Know” with a distorted guitar and keyboard lead over an ambling piano and features the repeated contradictory lines “We are all alone. We are not alone”. It sounds almost like a goodbye to Alejandro’s extensive musical career. I, for one, certainly hope that is not the case.
It is fitting that with all of our rock and roll heroes that were taken from us in 2016, that Escovedo and Buck put together this tribute to their musical influences of the past, vague as that tribute is. Even though the songs display influence from other artists, this record is as creative as anything that Alejandro has done in his very creative career.
If you are not a rock and roll fan, you’ll probably want to pass this one by. If you are a rock and roll fan, you’re going to want to pick this one up.