The brilliant Americana singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo will perform a free concert at Hendrix College's Staples Auditorium on Saturday, Oct. 21, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The doors open at 7 p.m., and seating is first-come, first-served.
Escovedo is the son of a mariachi great, and his siblings include Pete Escovedo, who helped found Santana and is the father of percussionist/singer Sheila E. Alejandro Escovedo has carved out his own niche of music, with an electic style of rock and folk that the critics lump into an all-encompassing "Americana" label.
Escovedo told us recently that he doesn't mind the tag.
"When you think about it, Americana is so many different types of music," he said. "Some think of it as country and bluegrass. but in my perspective, that’s almost a racist way of looking at it. If you're going to call that Americana, are you going to eliminate the Latin music from the Ssouthwest? That to me is Americana. Or the blues? That's definitely American-made music. For that matter, you can't discount the Beach Boys. That is Americana."
"Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howling Wolf. It's all American music. As an organization and what it represents, it's a little odd to me. But the way I see it, as a style of music, it encompasses so much. I'm happy to be a part of it, because it's such a broad spectrum."
His own influences, Escovedo said, started with jazz from his brothers, country music from his father, and swing from his mother. "Where I grew up, and I was born in 1951 in Texas, I got to hear a lot of rock 'n' roll on the radio and fell in love with it right away."
In 2003, Escovedo collapsed on stage in Arizona, and unknowned to him at the time he had hepatitis C as well as cirrosis. For a time, he was gravely ill, and many of his friends banded together to produce a record covering his songs, with the proceeds going to pay his hospital bill.
The 55-year-old Escovedo says he's fine now, taking his medicine and taking better care of himself. "I'm getting rest on the road, not staying out late, I don't drink anymore, I'm trying to stay away from tobacco smoke as much as possible, keep it natural, walk as much as possible."
He recently completed a tour of the West Coast, including a show in front of 8,000 or so people at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Escovedo, a surfing fan, made sure to visit the Pacific Coast beach to get some surfing photographs and just chill, he said.
"I'm touring all the time, more than I really want to, but it’s necessary," he said, noting that his music isn't regularly played on popular radio. "I wanted people to really hear this record. When you’re on the level that I’m on, it’s important to keep working, keep playing in front of as many people as I can."
His newest record, "Boxing Mirror," was produced by John Cale, founder of the Velvet Underground. Escovedo couldn't stop raving about the chance to work with Cale. "First, it was about the tremendous sounds that he got without getting so far away from what we do. There was still a recognizable sense of my songs, but with a very different sound as far as how we approachd the strings. This is kind of more of a rock album for me.
"Just working with John was amazing, truly amazing, I can't even say just how truly amazing it was. He's incredible."
Escovedo has played Little Rock's Juanita's with his bands Rank and File and the True Believers, as well as with Austin's Picket Line Coyotes, who now make up The Gourds. He played the club as a solo act in 1999, but says it's been a while since he's been in Central Arkansas. Escovedo will be bringing his regular touring band to Hendrix: rhythm section, keyboard, violin player and guitar player. He says that for Hendrix students and his fans (the show is open to everyone), "it will be a chance to see something different and maybe we get a lot of kids that are looking at it as sort of a historic perspective, kids who like punk rock wanting to see what influenced that. Our music has changed, and people are curious about it."