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World Music CD Reviews North American

Alejandro Escovedo

By Marty Lipp
Published August 21, 2008

Real Animal
Manhattan/EMI

Alejandro Escovedo’s greatest talent lies in his ability to tell powerful and poignant stories, and Real Animal takes a look back on his life in the hard lane. Born in Texas, Escovedo started out with Cali punk rockers The Nuns before moving on to help forge what’s now known as alt-country. He embarked on a solo career in the early 1990s, and for a stretch of more than a decade he was routinely referred to as a “musician’s musician,” enjoying notoriety as an influential singer and songwriter without gaining arena-sized audiences. When he came close to death in 2003 after being diagnosed with hepatitis C, a slew of rock luminaries stepped into the breach to raise funds for his treatment, and he was able to recover and begin anew. In good health and apparently undiminished, Escovedo —now teamed with legendary producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex)—rocks out here with a broad sonic palette, and even despite a surprising steal from Bowie’s “China Girl,” Visconti proves to be a good match for the roots-rock sound. The ranks of Escovedo’s cult following will no doubt swell further after getting a taste of this heartfelt set.