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A Man Under the Influence

Alejandro Escovedo

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Album Review

"It's all about this love/It's all about this pain/It's all about the loss/We take to live again." Those lines hardly tell you everything there is to know about Alejandro Escovedo's songwriting, but he's rarely expressed his key themes with such strength and concision as he does in the first verse of "About This Love," and while Escovedo's fifth studio album, A Man Under the Influence, doesn't stray far from the musical and lyrical themes that have dominated his previous work, he's rarely (if ever) put the pieces together quite as well as he does here. Escovedo's latest lineup of his orchestra — anchored by Brian Standefer on cello, Eric Heywood on pedal steel, Mike Daly on keyboards and guitar, Hector Munoz on drums, and Cornbread on bass — sounds like his strongest and best controlled to date, as comfortable with the subtleties of "Wave" as the full-on rock of "Castanets." Quite simply, Escovedo has never sung better than he does on this set, running the emotional spectrum from plaintive longing to swaggering contempt and never sounding less than convincing at any stop along the way. And while Turner Stephen Bruton's production on Escovedo's first three studio albums was intelligent and intuitive, Chris Stamey's work on A Man Under the Influence suits him just as well while sounding clearer, sharper, and better focused; the sound catches the full range of Escovedo's personality while adding the sonic details that sometimes got lost on his previous records. And if love and loss still remain Escovedo's favorite themes, like Hank Williams or Leonard Cohen he seems to have something new and telling to say about them each time out; each of this album's 11 songs is worth hearing, and the cumulative effect is nothing less than stunning. No one who's heard Escovedo's work doubts his status as one of the finest singer/songwriters of his day, and he's never been heard to better advantage on disc than on A Man Under the Influence.

Biography

Born: 1951 in San Antonio, TX

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Alejandro Escovedo's family tree includes former Santana percussionist Pete Escovedo and Pete's daughter Sheila E (also Prince's former drummer and later a pop star). He began his music career with the Nuns, a mid-'70s punk band based in San Francisco. He co-founded the pioneering cowpunk band Rank and File in 1979, which moved to Austin, Texas in 1981 after a stint in New York City. The band released Sundown on Slash Records in 1982, but shortly after, Escovedo left to form the True Believers with...
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A Man Under the Influence, Alejandro Escovedo
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