Alejandro Escovedo “Echo Dancing”

Yep Roc, 2024

Americana legend reimagines 14 classic songs.

Album art for Alejandro Escovedo Echo Dancing (Yep Roc)Alejandro Escovedo’s latest album sees him once again teamed up with Don Antonio and his band.  ‘Echo Dancing’, like its predecessor, ‘The Crossing’ (2018), was recorded at Costabeat in Villa di Forli, halfway between Bologna and the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region with Escovedo, Antonio and Nicola Peruch producing.

Escovedo explains its genesis: “I was planning this record just prior to boarding a plane to Italy to record with Don Antonio and Nicola Peruch. My original idea was to record an album of new material. But then I changed my mind and thought that revisiting songs from my various albums would be more interesting. I always feel that a well-written song can withstand a lot of abuse. Turning a past song inside out leads to discovery of new ideas you might not have understood. The songs never seem to be complete. They are always evolving.”

The album draws on his catalogue of recordings from the True Believers and Buick MacKane through to ‘The Crossing’ (but nothing from The Nuns or Rank & File).  Looking back over his albums over that period, the listener is reminded just how varied Escovedo’s styles have been;  from punk rock at one end of the spectrum to the string quintet.  In the live setting the songs often seem to transcend the styles in which they’re played which is a good place to start when listening to ‘Echo Dancing’.

The album opens with a suitably scuzzy sounding ‘John Conquest’ which as it develops hints at early Echo & The Bunnymen, nodding to Buick MacKane’s punk/glam influences.  A rockabilly beat leads into ‘Sacramento & Polk’ which is then punctuated by a discordant jazzy piano as Escovedo paints his picture of life in downtown San Francisco. The band funks up ‘Bury Me’, originally from ‘Gravity’ (1992), emphasising one element from its first iteration.

The band retains the swampy feel of ‘Everybody Loves Me’ but drags it deeper into the mud while Escovedo’s vocal takes on an almost jungle feel.  ‘Too Many Tears’ is both faster and louder than the Tony Visconti-produced original justifying the “reimagining” tag to ‘Echo Dancing’.

Rocker ‘Castanets’ has long been a favourite at Escovedo’s live shows.  Here, retitled ‘Castañuelas’ it opens with a big reggae beat which is mirrored in the vocal styling while the lyric switches between English and Spanish. The True Believers’ ‘Outside Your Door’ is delivered in a soft often spoken vocal over a blanket of keyboards and bass and some way slower than the country soul original.

The soulful ‘Sensitive Boys’, one of two tracks taken from ‘Real Animal’ (2008), is performed over a soft piano accompaniment which wouldn’t be out of place in a spotlit night club.  The other, ‘Swallows of San Juan’, almost swings in with organ and twangy guitar and has a beat that punctuates the melody and a warm fuzzy guitar break.

‘Last To Know’ opens with a deep electronic pulse like a heartbeat and other effects before Escovedo sings the familiar vocal.  Atmospheric guitar and keyboards add to the spacey treatment of the ‘Gravity’ classic.

The selection performs a career leap with ‘MC Overload’ from Escovedo’s most recent release ‘The Crossing’ reimagined from heads-down boogie to a smoking jazzy blues.  ‘Inside This Dance’, from which the album takes its title, expands its scale from cantina dance floor to ballroom with mirror ball while retaining the intimacy of the original.

On ‘A Man Under The Influence’ (2001), opener ‘Wave’ slipped in quietly.  On ‘Echo Dancing’ where it’s the closer, it arrives with a big beat bang and proceeds with some interesting beats and effects over which Escovedo’s vocal glides effortlessly.

There is a definite European feel to a lot of the reimagined tracks, emphasising the strength of the underlying songs.  Escovedo was named No Depression’s Artist of the Decade in the late 1990s and the fact that this selection of fourteen songs barely scratched the surface of his body of work more than justifies that accolade.  The chemistry with Don Antonio and band and the production team is more than apparent. One fun side effect is it will send listeners back to the other records and, hopefully, lead new listeners into an americana treasure chest.

9/10
9/10

About Richard Parkinson 91 Articles
London based self-diagnosed music junkie with tastes extending to all points of big tent americana and beyond. Fan of acts and songs rather than genres.
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toby codding

great lp along with the new sarah shook make it a great friday