Nick Paumgarten/The New Yorker/September 2018  – Alejandro Escovedo, the singer and songwriter, likes to have a proper Mexican breakfast before a long drive. “Let’s go here,” he said. He pulled into the back lot of a restaurant called El Pueblo, across from the Tornado bus terminal on East Jefferson Boulevard, in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. El Pueblo, he said, is where travellers arriving by bus from Mexico often go to eat and to get their bearings. He ordered in Spanish, then remarked that his Spanish was poor. The plates came quickly. Chorizo con huevos. “This is bad_ass_, man,” he said. An elderly vagrant looked in through the window and then walked in. Escovedo gave him a dollar. “When I was small, I used to be able to see the pain in people,” he said.

This was the Friday before Labor Day. The following week, he was due in Philadelphia, to begin a tour that would take him to Brooklyn, then south, and west, and eventually back to Dallas. Typically, he’d be resting up, but that night he had a benefit gig in Austin, his former home town, and so, prior to leaving Texas, he was sneaking in a three-day road trip, a kind of sentimental journey—south to Austin and beyond, backward through time, down to the border of old Mexico. He had rented a black S.U.V., with room for a guitar and an amp; he joked that its tinted windows and low clearance gave it a slight cartel vibe—good for Laredo.

By Drew Brown for The New Yorker

Escovedo, who is sixty-seven, was about to release a new album, his fourteenth as a solo artist, on top of a few with a run of beloved but luckless punk-ish bands. For this one, he’d teamed up with an Italian musician and former journalist named Antonio Gramentieri, known to all as Don Antonio. The album, “The Crossing,” tells an imagined story of two young immigrants working in an Italian restaurant in Texas: a Mexican named Diego (a kid not unlike Escovedo) and an Italian named Salvo (a version of Gramentieri), who share a love of punk rock, as well as the hardships and wonders of their experience as less than welcome newcomers to America. They recorded it in Italy, with a band comprising Gramentieri’s childhood friends and neighbors in Modigliana, a small comune east of Bologna—a long way from the Rio Grande. The album has the customary Escovedo mixture of romping Stooges guitar and plaintive folk, but also, in places, a cinematic heft that suggests Ennio Morricone—a whiff of the spaghetti Southwestern. Escovedo and Gramentieri didn’t have Trump, or his wall, or ice square in their sights when they started, but the tragedy of the lives disrupted on both sides of the southern border suffuses the album; the context deepens an idiosyncratic cycle of songs. As Escovedo sings at the end, “We all become history when we make the crossing.”


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