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Alejandro Escovedo @ Turner Hall Ballroom

April 4, 2008

Apr. 8, 2008
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When it comes to finding inspiration, the old songwriting adage “write what you know” remains a good rule of thumb—just ask Alejandro Escovedo. As his career has progressed, Escovedo’s best source of inspiration has been the wellspring of his own experiences, from his first solo album, the song-cycle Gravity, to his upcoming album,Real Animal (due in June), which promises to be a survey of Escovedo’s life as a musician.

On Friday at Turner Hall, armed with only a pair of acoustic guitars and their voices, Escovedo and David Pulkingham delivered a graduate-level class on songwriting that ranged from sensitive ballads to Mexican-influenced tunes to flat-out punk-rock noise—sometimes even in the same song.

From the opener “Dear Head On the Wall,” Escovedo’s surreal lyrics matched the song’s taut energy until the music built to a minor squall. For an opening tune, the song had the pitch of an encore. The following “Five Hearts Breaking” built on the dynamics. In previous shows with a full band or string section, the tune’s sections provided stunning drama. In the duo setting, the battle of drive and resignation came across like a beautiful, world-weary conversation.

Working on his new album with producer Tony Visconti must have been a thrill for Escovedo as a music fan; his old garage band Buick MacKane was named after a Visconti-produced T. Rex tune. Friday night Escovedo debuted several songs from the upcoming album. Among them were “Sister Lost Soul,” inspired by the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce (of the Gun Club), and “Chelsea Hotel,” which he introduced with a Sid & Nancy reference.

De rigueur for most Escovedo shows is the unplugged set where he strolls into the audience. Past gigs at Gil’s Cafe offered the feel of a living room; at Turner Hall, Escovedo strolled the room for three tunes, highlighted by a cover of Mott the Hoople’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother.” And true to form, he encored with The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” howling the lyrics while flailing a broken guitar string.


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