Alejandro Escovedo

An Introduction

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Alejandro Escovedo's 1992 album Gravity was one of the most strikingly accomplished debuts of the decade, though it helped that Escovedo had been playing music since the mid-'70s and making records with various bands (most notably Rank and File and the True Believers) since the early '80s. But the scope, ambition, and striking emotional impact of Gravity would have been impressive coming from someone with twice Escovedo's résumé, and it was merely the first salvo in a solo career that has seen him go from strength to strength as a writer, singer, and arranger with each successive project, spinning tales of lives in the balance with the skill of a gifted novelist. Escovedo's first two solo albums, Gravity and Thirteen Years, were originally released by the Texas-based independent label Watermelon Records, but they went into limbo when Watermelon went out of business. In 2002 they were reissued in expanded form by another independent outfit, Texas Music Group, who that same year released By the Hand of the Father, an album of songs Escovedo wrote for a play about the lives of Mexican immigrants in the United States. An Introduction brings together 14 tracks from the Texas Music Group editions of these three albums -- four selections from Gravity, four from Thirteen Years, two from By the Hand of the Father, and four live recordings that were included on bonus discs with the reissues of the first two albums. As an overview of Escovedo's career, this is pretty skimpy, but as a sampler of his early solo work, it's impressive stuff. The compilation manages to cherrypick the most memorable moments from each album (though curiously, the two songs drawn from By the Hand of the Father are the same two Escovedo re-recorded for his excellent album for Bloodshot, A Man Under the Influence), and if they lose a bit of their impact when taken out of context, the work remains strong enough to stand on its own. The album reveals a telltale sign of careless mastering -- no one bothered to clip off the song introductions that come at the end of the live tracks, so after "Bury Me/Hard Road," Escovedo announces his cover of Ian Hunter's "I Wish I Was Your Mother," which doesn't appear until eight selections later -- and the liner notes are sloppy at best. But there are 71 minutes of superb music from one of America's best and most singular songwriters on this disc, and there are far worse ways to become acquainted with Alejandro Escovedo's work. (An even better way is to simply get all three of the albums featured on this collection, which will be issued in full by Floating World.)

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