I recommend for song of the day “Wave” by Alejandro Escovedo, from his 2001 Bloodshot Records release “A Man “, the first track. It would be fitting to feature Alejandro this week since down in Austin the music world is celebrating SXSW — South By Southwest — the huge, Texas-sized music conference, shindig and hoe-down. Twang-fest. Thinking about Alejandro, or listening to this song, is like a mind’s trip to Austin, which, come to think of it has a sort of on-going 24/7 365 music festival. Alejandro’s music reminds me of friends of mine down there like Laura Thomas of Combo Plate Booking, Matt the Electrician, Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne, Slaid Cleaves, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Roggie Baer my cousin the booking agent, Friends of Dean Martinez, South Austin Jug Band, Asylum Street Spankers (Wammo and Catherine), Austin Lounge Lizards, Seymour Guenther and Nancy Fly, booking agents and yoga teachers.
Alejandro plays Saturday night, March 15, (2008) at Maria’s Taco Xpress — I think that the restaurant is run by someone in his family.
Its also noteworthy that Escovedo has been suffering the effects of a Hep C infection. He had curtailed his touring and recording for several years while he underwent treatment for this illness. Famously, the music community rose to the occassion to do a series of benefits on this behalf, in Austin, New York and many other places. I recall sitting in Brandon Kessler’s office of Messenger Records (Dan Bern, the late Chris Whitely) in 2003 and noticing a flyer on the coffee table about a show in New York on this topic. In 2004 Bloodshot Records released a compilation cd called “Por Vida” (“For Life” )that features covers of Escovedo’s songs by artists like Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Jon Langford, Chris Stamey, Charlie Musselwhite, Caitlin Cary, M. Ward with Victor Chesnutt, and more. Langford, who is best known for his work with Mekons the band, contributes an excellent cover artwork. The rock band Calexico covers “Wave” on this cd, the proceeds of which, I believe, are still earmarked for either Escovedo’s medical bills or a fund for musicians’ health insurance.
I’m not a big lyrics guys but I would venture to say that one could interpret “Wave” as a song about departure, or about mortality. The song speaks of waving goodbye to a train “heading for the other side”. It’s poignant but not cheesy. It’s definitely more like a savory plate of steak tacos like at Maria’s and not a Taco Bell special, you could say. I believe the timing of the cd coincides with the time Alejandro was first confronting his medical prognosis. He says “don’t worry I made it to the other side.” It also obliquely deals with issues of race and class, something about “golden hair” people and “rich” and “poor”. But again, despite your patholgist’s penchant for exposing and dissecting lyrics, I wouldn’t get too caught up on meaning. Also, truth be told I picked this song rather arbitrarily in that it popped up and started to play when I surfed his site today. I would say it probably is considered one of his finer tracks (0r at least among the top 24 or 30 that other people might cover — and by the way there is also a lesser known all -Canadian tribute album of his work) but I think Alejandro is more about being a living, breathing, working, emoting singer-songwriter — emphasis on performer, like a troubadour — than about the texts. You could probably watch him read aloud from his the phone book and leave the show reconfiguring your pantheon of musical heroes. If you cannot get to Austin, I recommend the Midwestern, middle-age-approaching doctor types (like Shevlin and Moore, and other readers of Music is My Savior) jumping in the Volvo and heading up to Iowa City, Milwaukee or Berwyn, IL — shut down the labs and hit all three!
Following his April 2003 collapse from hepatitis C, cirrhosis of the liver and internal hemorrhaging, Escovedo spent much of his extended recovery avoiding such questions, laying low, refusing all requests for interviews.
For what could he say?
How are you feeling?
I’m feeling awful.
As someone who’d long enjoyed living in the spotlight — he was a star in Austin years before the rest of the world caught on — he now wanted no part it. After returning from his emergency-room hospitalization and subsequent convalescence in Arizona that spring, he stayed away from Austin. He lived on the outskirts of San Antonio and then moved to the small Texas Hill Country town of Wimberley, about an hour southwest of Austin, where he’d lived for more than twenty years as one of the city’s most prominent and accomplished musicians.
I would say, except for the fact that the three of us met via our connection to the medical community, you two as doctors and me as, well, part of a daisy link of friends, and musical fellow-travelers, it is not cool to harp on the hep c angle for Mr. E.
It also brings to mind, at least in Palo Alto, the passing of baseball great Tony Gwynn, in that he died so young and the disease — cancer, which presented as lip — seemed to ravage him with crazy force. Count your blessing, squeeze your babies and smoke ’em if you got ’em.