By Bill Friskics-Warren
Like any number of underground rock heroes, Alejandro Escovedo has never achieved popular acclaim commensurate with his gifts or accomplishments. But he has long enjoyed the adulation of his peers, as demonstrated by "Por Vida," a 2004 tribute CD involving the likes of John Cale, Ian Hunter and Lucinda Williams.
Two admirers join Escovedo on his new "Street Songs of Love," a stirring set of originals that plumb the mysteries and contradictions of love. "Down in the Bowery" is a gut-wrenching soul ballad sung with former Mott the Hoople frontman Hunter. "Faith," a tightly coiled rocker featuring Bruce Springsteen, gives voice to the album's emotional core. "You gotta have faith / In the broken and torn / You gotta have faith / In the love that's reborn," the two men sing, trading lines over a headlong rush of drums and guitars, on the third stanza.
The wisdom and grace with which Escovedo has endured personal and professional hardship, including a nasty bout with hepatitis C, has made him one of rock-and-roll's most beloved survivors. As expressed in songs like "Faith" and "Anchor," a strutting anthem worthy of Tom Petty or "Exile on Main Street"-era Rolling Stones, it's this resiliency that lends his struggles and performances such nobility.
Working again with glam-rock producer Tony Visconti, Escovedo proudly wears his musical influences - the Stooges, New York Dolls, all manner of punk - on his sleeve. Filtered through his scuffling yet tender-hearted persona, the result, yet again, is ageless rock-and-roll.
Recommended Tracks: "Faith," "Anchor," "Down in the Bowery"