Roots Rocker at Wellmont
Alejandro Escovedo plays the Wellmont Theatre Saturday.
In conversation, Alejandro Escovedo is very much like his songs: there’s a taut, haiku-like spareness there, a stoicism that just barely hides the emotions roiling beneath. He’ll be bringing his coiled, southwestern narratives to The Wellmont Theatre on Saturday when he opens for The Drive-By Truckers.
“It’s not quite the never-ending tour,” said Escovedo, recently. “But we do play a lot of gigs. Then I go home to Texas for a brief rest. And we repeat the pattern.”
The pattern seems to be serving him well.
A veteran of the Los Angeles punk rock wars, Escovedo is proof that persistence pays off. Originally known as a founding member of The Nuns and then, alt.-country pioneers, Rank and File, this gritty songwriter’s career really seemed to take flight when he went solo in 1992. Since then, he’s gathered heaps of praise, plus famous fans, such as Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen.
Escovedo’s 2010 album, “Street Songs Of Love,” really cracked things wide-open for this longtime critic’s darling. It garnered him lots of mainstream airplay, bigger venues, a duet with Bruce. He shares something else with The Boss, now, too: management, courtesy of Jon Landau.
“That’s made a huge difference. Jon really seems to love and ‘get’ what I do. And he’s helped raise my profile enormously.”
Not that things don’t still get tough now-and-again.
“My group and I were on tour with The Dave Matthews Band recently,” said Escovedo. “It could’ve gone better. The people were really there to see Dave and they were very impatient with what I do. Opening for The Truckers makes sense, because we’re akin musically. But being on tour with a ‘jam band’? Probably not such a great idea.”
Escovedo does go out of his way to say, however, that Matthews, himself, “treated us really well. He’s a great guy.”
Of course, anyone familiar with his story, knows that this Texas rocker’s road has, at times, been a bumpy one. Having lived with Hepatitis C for a number of years, he fell quite ill from the disease in 2003. Without health insurance, Escovedo’s bills mounted. That is, until musical friends, like Ian Hunter, Steve Earle and John Cale, held a benefit for him and helped defray his medical costs.
As of 2005, he’s been free of the disease. Still, he tries to take care of himself now, no matter how demanding the rock and roll world may be. But that doesn’t mean fewer gigs for this road warrior.
“I think we did about 235 shows last year,” Escovedo said, quietly.
As for his next release, he’s got plans.
“I’ve been writing songs with (frequent co-writer) Chuck Prophet. And I’m pretty sure that (David Bowie compatriot) Tony Visconti will be producing it. He’s great to work with and very easygoing as well.”
When asked about his beloved offshoot group, Buick Mckane, Escovedo says he hopes to do some gigs with this punk-glam rock aggregation. But wonders what it means in the weird new world of making records.
“It would be great to record a few new cover songs with them,” he said. “But the record industry has changed so much, I wouldn’t know what to do with those tunes. I mean, the stuff would make great B-sides, that’s for sure.”
Then this veteran of the rock and roll life chuckles sadly.
“Then again,” he said, “I’m not so sure. They don’t really make B-sides anymore. Do they?”
INFO: Alejandro Escovedo will be at The Wellmont Theatre on Saturday, June 11 with The Drive-By Truckers. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. For more information call (973) 783-9500.
By Peter Gerstenzang – Montclair Patch