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A MAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (Bloodshot) • Alejandro Escovedo

Although this artist's name is far from a household word (indeed, many households couldn't even pronounce his name), writing a short review of his latest record I find a daunting task. In his musical life, he has been and done so many things with such integrity, that I look for words to express respect and not just lip service to the long road he has already been down. I'm moved that his biography at his own website is not even 75 words, when so many fine writers have written so much about him. The highly regarded magazine No Depression has called him the Artist of the Decade.

Musical roots run deep in his Mexican American family. His dad played in mariachi bands in the 40s, his brothers Pete and Coke were percussionists with Santana, his niece is Sheila E., a percussionist with Prince who later became a solo pop artist. His own career began in vital punk and then cowpunk bands like the Nuns and Rank & File, and the True Believers (with his brother Javier). After the dozen years that he spent in those three bands, he has recorded seven solo albums for three different labels, and experimented continually with the ensemble approach to his music.

His live shows have run the gamut from solo work through small acoustic bands to 13 piece orchestras with strings and horns, and touring with string trios and quartets. The first two songs on this record are part of a play he wrote about his father's arrival in this country, By the Hand of the Father, which has been performed in several locales.

If you're a singer songwriter, or enjoy records by singer songwriters, and don't have any Alejandro Escovedo records, I submit that your collection has a big hole in it, as did mine. Fear not, the records of this Austin icon are readily available at his website. A Man Under the Influence is thought by many to be the artist's finest effort to date, and we recommend it with emphasis.

My thanks to my persistent Canadian friend Allison Green, who turned me on to Alejandro and a number of other acts.  • FG

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