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Health restored, Escovedo looks forward to LR show

By Jack W. Hill Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published June 12, 2014 at 2:12 a.m.

alejandro-escovedo

Alejandro Escovedo

Music

Alejandro Escovedo

Opening act: BettySoo

9 p.m. Friday, Stickyz Rock ā€™nā€™ Roll Chicken Shack, 107 River Market Ave., Little Rock

Admission: $17 advance, $20 day of show

(501) 372-7707

stickyz.com

Like other musicians, Alejandro Escovedo has sought to shape a career that's a mix of fame, fortune and critical acclaim, but unlike most of his peers, he has had the additional challenge of remaining alive.

Escovedo has managed to come out on top in his survival struggle, after having battled back from hepatitis C.

He reports he's in good shape these days.

"I take care of myself and eat healthy," he says. "I believe good healthy animals and plants make healthy people."

Escovedo is looking forward to returning to Little Rock. He reckons he's played in central Arkansas four or five times, in various bands or configurations.

"This time I'll be playing guitar and am bringing Susan Voelz, who was in Poi Dog Pondering and plays violin," he says. "We played together on a tour with Shelby Lynne, and we'll be doing a sort of retrospective of my career, and I'll talk about songwriting a lot. I'll start at the beginning, about my life, my journey and how the songs accompany my life."

Born in San Antonio in 1951, Escovedo and his musical family moved to Southern California when he was 7.

"Our parents were very supportive and bought us records," Escovedo says, "and they loved all the music, too, from the late '50s and early '60s, and The Beatles."

After hanging around the likes of Buffalo Springfield and Love at nearby clubs in the Los Angeles area, he went north to San Francisco in 1975 and got in on the early days of punk rock in The Nuns (the opening act for the Sex Pistols' final show). He soon moved on to Austin, where he became a member of Rank and File, then The True Believers -- two bands that were instrumental in shaping a sound that evolved into what became a mix of Americana, roots rock, country and alternative rock.

By 1992, Escovedo had gone solo, and has since released 14 albums, the latest of which, Big Station, came out in 2012. In 2003, his hepatitis diagnosis resulted in his many friends rallying to help pay his medical bills with the release of Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo. The double-disc album included contributions from nearly 40 musicians, including Lucinda Williams, Cowboy Junkies, Jayhawks, Son Volt, M. Ward and Steve Earle.

And while Escovedo has many friends who sing his songs (or write with him, as Chuck Prophet has done recently), he also has chosen to collaborate with producers whose vision and past work he admires. His past three albums were produced by Tony Visconti, who worked with David Bowie and T Rex, while earlier albums were produced by John Cale, a founding member of The Velvet Underground, and Chris Stamey of The dB's.

Just as others have done a tribute to Escovedo, he has participated in tributes to others, including Skip Spence of Moby Grape, Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados.

"I'm about to do something on a tribute to Ian McLagan, who was the keyboardist in The Faces," Escovedo adds. "And I'm going to record 'I'm Not Like Everyone Else,' which was by The Kinks, but sung by Dave Davies, not his brother, Ray Davies."

An autobiography is also in the works, Escovedo says, assuming he can find someone to sort out his life and times, but first he has three weeks of touring and then some recording with Peter Buck, guitarist in the now-defunct band R.E.M.

Opening act BettySoo was a headliner a year ago at a festival held at Wildwood Park for the Arts. Also an Austin resident, she is a New Folk Winner at the Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival and her work has been praised by the Austin American-Statesman as "exceptionally well-arranged songs, as easily equal in precision to, say, Patty Griffin or Alison Krauss."

Weekend on 06/12/2014

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