Sunday, December 28, 2008

17. Alejandro Escovedo - Always a Friend

As a music listener, and one who considers himself fairly refined, I am always especially embarrassed when I realize that I've completely missed out on a musical legend. That actually happens to me quite a bit so maybe I should just forget any notions I have about the possibility of having an advanced musical pallet.

Right before composing the final version of this list, I listened to the great APM podcast Sound Opinions with Chicago record critics Greg Kot and Jim DiRogatis and their interview with Alejandro Escovedo and heard this fantastic straight forward rocker. For those of you in the dark about Escovedo as I was, he was in on the ground floor of the American punk movement with the Nuns and expanded his horizons throughout the 80s and 90s. He collaborated with Whiskeytown on the near perfect Strangers Almanac album and has carved out a distinguished solo career for himself by strattling alt-country and garage rock, acquiring a list of fans along the way that includes Springsteen, Tom Petty, the Hold Steady, and countless others.

I think sometimes the instinct for the more established elder statesmen of rock and roll is to make albums totally lacking in ambition and creativity in the hopes of scoring giant pay days and not doing anything too risky that could possibly alienate a loyal and often mindless fan base (I'm looking at you The Who, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, and Axl Rose). Escovedo not only avoids that trap but manages to make an album full of melodic garage rock that eclipses the more high profile 2008 work of the Raconteurs and the Hold Steady with Always a Friend as the highlight.

In this song, Escovedo writes what has to be the greatest tribute ever written to the fantastic and possibly mythic "friends with benefits" arrangement. While the lyrics aren't destined for literature books or masters theses, ("We came here as two, we laid down as one
I don't care if I'm not your only one") they do the trick while allowing sonically unique guitar work and "Oooo, Oooo" and "Oh, Oh, Oh" harmonies to lead the way. In the process, Escovedo makes a song that should make 20 something bands give him shot outs in their liner notes and 50 something acts question their commitment and hopefully step up their game.

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