I go to hear a lot of new music, rarified and esoteric. Great stuff, but it’s not rock ‘n’ roll. And sometimes, high-volume blazing guitars and poetic lyrics – well, they just fix everything damaged inside. When Alejandro Escovedo took the stage at the Carrboro ArtsCenter on December 2, opening with “Heartbeat Smile” from his new recording Burn Something Beautiful, I knew I’d make it through another night. By the time the show wrapped up, I felt I could make it through the next several years on the memory of this compound of love, generosity, virtuosity and sonic bliss.
Escovedo, now 65, is at this point a reigning master of alt-country post-punk rocking singer-songwriter musicianship with a strong Texas accent. Yes, he’s hard to categorize. I was originally drawn to his work many years ago by the amazing emotional honesty of his songs, in which the lyrics, the sounds, and beats are meshed very tightly, each more fully expressing the other. His guitar playing, both acoustic and electric, is powerful, whether at the lovely or ferocious end of the spectrum. But like most great musicians, he is at his very best playing with others. For this tour, he’s playing with a band composed of a young bassist and a drummer from Texas, Escovedo’s home state, and an extraordinary electric guitarist from New York, Jason Victor. The jams between Victor and Escovedo escalated to the point just before chaos, and when those boys got to working the whammy bars, coaxing their instruments into prolonged cosmic wailing and moaning, the effect on the audience was one of cathartic release.