Street Songs of Love

It’s a familiar story in the music industry about the injustice of fame and success. Artists who write and produce great music never find the audience they deserve. Sometimes they win acknowledgement after years of struggle, often thanks to the support of more successful musicians who recognize the talent of the unsung hero. Alejandro Escovedo certainly qualifies for that status. A tribute album of his songs featuring Los Lonely Boys and Lucinda Williams helped build recognition but now it’s Escovedo’s own album that gets a big boost thanks to a couple of major music names. Jon Landau, who represents Bruce Springsteen, has taken on managerial duties for Escovedo and he enlisted Springsteen’s help for Escovedo’s new release. Also featured on the release is the mixing work of Springsteen’s producer, Bob Clearmountain, and Ian Hunter appears as a guest vocalist. Add to this line-up the talents of co-writer Chuck Prophet and producer Tony Visconti and you get a better picture of Escovedo’s arsenal.

Escovedo has referred to Street Songs of Love as a band record, so don’t overlook his band The Sensitive Boys. David Pulkingham, Bobby Daniels and Hector Munoz are a very tight, hard rocking unit and make no mistake about it – this is a rock record. There are a few softer ballads but most of Street Songs of Love pulls from Escovedo’s past as a punk and rock musician. This album soars on the energy of the band’s performance and the smart, acutely crafted songwriting. Chuck Prophet co-wrote 7 of the album’s 13 songs; his acerbic wit and feel for gritty street life fits nicely with Escovedo’s real-life, hard scrabble view of the world, tempered by an undying faith in love.

The album’s opens with the single, “Anchor”and sets the stage for what is Escovedo’s most accessible set of songs. Immediately catchy, “Anchor” is loaded with punchy rhythms, growling vocals, and establishes the album’s theme – love can salvage a hand-to-mouth existence. Before the dust has settled, Escovedo launches into “Silver Cloud”, another jamming rocker with backing girl vocals. Don’t catch your breath yet, cut 3 keeps up the pace with one of the album’s best tracks; “This Bed Is Getting Crowded” is just snarky enough to keep from being too angry. “Street Songs of Love” a sinewy, sexy number highlights Chuck Prophet’s influence – the image of a pot smoking neighborhood girl and her appeal is something that could easily find it’s way onto one of his records.

Street Songs of Love features more funk than I’ve heard from Escovedo before. One of the best examples of this is “Tula” a tribute to the late Mississippi writer Larry Brown. It manages to mix a swampy southern feel with a Hispanic edge. A second tribute “Fort Worth Blues” honors another great artists who never got his fair acclaim – the late Stephen Bruton, a guitarist who worked with Escovedo, Bonnie Raitt and many others. It’s a slow instrumental guitar number that wraps the CD.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)