Stricken with Hepatitis C in April 2003 and lacking health insurance, Alejandro Escovedo has been the focus of scores of benefit concerts in Austin, Texas, and across the U.S. These 32 songs offer further aid--and a dizzying, daring appraisal of a brilliant, if commercially hard-luck, songwriter. Opening with Lucinda Williams
's slurred, Spartan electric groove, the set covers the obscure ("Sacramento & Polk," in a manic paranoid take by Lenny Kaye) and the exquisite (the road-weary ballad "Thirteen Years," in a stately, aching reading by Tejano legend Ruben Ramos
). Those familiar with the restless style-shifting of Escovedo's career won't be surprised by the juxtaposition of Ian Hunter
's bar-band strut with the Jayhawks
' psychedelic wall of delay, or Peter Case
's glam garage with Bob Neuwirth
's unguarded, accordion-laced sigh. Surprises include a poignant vocal turn from keyboard legend Ian McLagan, a reunited and stunningly revived Son Volt
, and Escovedo himself, charging through a new tempo-twisting rocker cut just before he fell ill. There is tangible enthusiasm, even love, in the performances of these wildly diverse admirers. --Roy Kasten
From the Artist
Alejandro Escovedo is one of the most critically acclaimed artists in contemporary music, hailed by Rolling Stone critic David Fricke for creating "his own genre" and named Artist of the Decade for the 1990s by No Depression magazine. Widely admired for the stylistic breadth and innovation of his compositions and his facility for translating his personal experiences and observations into universal truths, he fell ill from the effects of Hepatitis C in April 2003.
The music community responded to his health crisis and its financial repercussions with a stunning outpouring of generosity and concern that culminates in Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo. On the two disc set, 31 acts from across the musical spectrum including Escovedos friends, family, peers, influences and admirers offer their inspired interpretations of his material, packaged with liner notes by famed critic Dave Marsh. A portion of the proceeds from this release will benefit the Alejandro Escovedo Medical & Living Expense Fund as well as a developing effort to develop an ongoing assistance effort for musicians afflicted with Hepatitis C.