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Various Artists - Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo

Por Vida:
A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo

Various Artists

Or Music
37W 17th st. suite 5W
New York 10011

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch
(moben@barak-online.net)

Alejandro Escovedo suffered from a collapse due to hepatitis C in June 2003. While bills started to pile up, his friends started to do benefit concerts to help him and then finally they did this CD. Shame on the richest country on the earth that is unable to give a proper health insurance to its citizens. I was ashamed to have to donate to one of my favorite singers and that he had to set a web site to raise money (http://www.alejandrofund.com) to get a proper treatment. Anyway, I am happy to know that he is doing much better.

I was lucky enough, since I live in Israel, to see Escovedo play live in 1999 in Austin. His live performance was fresh and always, even in his more rocking and rolling songs, sensitive. Most of his records convey this delicate balance between tenderness and strength.

I really don't know what to do with this tribute. I think that most songs here are well played but they fail to convey the scope of Escovedo's music. It's like all the chords are there, and there is even a good energy, but the soul is somewhere else. I was even disappointed by artists that are often played in my system, like Cowboy junkies, Lucinda Williams, Peter Case and others.

Not everything is lost here. John Cale is very convincing in She Doesn't Live Here Anymore. He explores this song in a very different way than Escovedo, making it sound like a soundtrack to a movie where you can actually see the empty flat where she doesn't live, and the empty streets in an autumn day with all the leaves roaming around.

Then, listening and pusing the skip button, I just wished most of the time that someone would try to come closer to the original as Chris Stammey does in One True Love. By just following Escovedo, Stamey does what most tracks fail to do. Ruben Ramos also gives a beautiful version of Thirteen Years, using a cello making it closer to Escovedo's orchestra.

Listening to these two CD's I came to the conclusion that what makes Alejandro Escovedo great is not his songwriting, but the interaction between his songwriting, his singing, and his very unique instrumentation. He does more of a complete show than your average singer-songwriter. I wonder if his songs can stand their chance in the voices of other artists. But, judging by this CD, it seems a very difficult task.

Maybe this set will bring some new fans to Escovedo, though I am not sure. Anyway, I would recommend anyone interested in Alejandro Escovedo's music to buy first his CD's, especially the classic Gravity, and then, Thirteen Years, and most of his solo output. This CD is for collectors or real completist fans of the artists performing here. and don't forget to donate to http://www.alejandrofund.com.

Track List

Disc OneDisc Two
  • Lucinda Williams - Pyramid of Tears
  • Lenny Kaye - Sacramento & Polk
  • Steve Earle & Reckless Kelly - Paradise
  • Jon Langford & Sally Timms - Broken Bottle
  • Calexico - Wave
  • Jennifer Warnes - Pissed Off 2am
  • John Cale - She Doesn't Live Here Anymore
  • Los Lonely Boys - Castanets
  • Cowboy Junkies - Don't Need You
  • Charlie Sexton - Dear Head On the Wall
  • Jon Dee Graham -Helpless
  • Howe Gelb - She Towers Above
  • Ian McLagan & The Bump Band - Wedding Day
  • Tres Chicas - Rhapsody
  • Peter Case - The End
  • Bob Neuwirth - Rosalie
  • The Section Quartet - Crooked Frame
  • Ian Hunter - One More Time
  • Jayhawks - Last to Know
  • Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra - Velvet Guitar
  • Pete Escovedo & Sheila E. - The Ballad of the Sun and Moon
  • The Chris Stamey Experience featuring Roman Candle - One True Love
  • Son Volt - Sometimes
  • Rosie Flores - Inside This Dance
  • Charlie Musselwhite - Everybody Loves Me
  • M. Ward with Vic Chesnutt & Howe Gelb - Way It Goes
  • Javier Escovedo - The Rain Won't Help You When It's Over
  • Caitlin Cary - By Eleven
  • The Minus 5 - I Was Drunk
  • The Dragons - Gravity
  • Ruben Ramos - Thirteen Years
  • Alejandro Escovedo - Break This Time

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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