In 1998, No Depression magazine named Alejandro Escovedo their Artist of the Decade, and they were right. Escovedo is a direct pipeline to something that is bigger than rock and roll. First, consider the man’s family tree: the most illustrious of his brothers are Coke, Pete, Mario, and Javier. Coke and Pete were percussionists at various times in the Santana band, Javier is a founding member of the Zeros, and Mario, who lives in San Diego, fronted the Dragons. Next, consider that Alejandro Escovedo has a knack for landing in the right places at the right time. His association with the late-’70s San Francisco punk scene got him a ride with the Nuns as guitarist, which took him to the front porch of Manhattan’s Chelsea, called the world’s most rock-and-roll hotel. Escovedo lived there for a year, made friends, and wrote songs about them. “Nancy [Spungen] called us to her room,” he sings in “Chelsea Hotel ’78,” “said come help us with Sid [Vicious].”
In due time, Escovedo was drawn away to the other epicenter of music, Austin, TX, where he took root as a songwriter and formed a backing band — the Sensitive Boys — to flesh out his ambitions. But don’t call what they do alt-country. Alejandro Escovedo is a rocker, and a durable one at that. The singer/songwriter released Big Station, his 14th album, a rambling collection of stories set to roots rock last year. At 62, his voice has aged to a kind of tattered rightness that never fails to measure the emotional depths to which his story lines descend.
Some critics complain that the music business has snubbed Escovedo, that if life were fair he’d be a major star. Nonsense. Escovedo’s music means everything to his fans; does it get bigger than that?
Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys also perform.
Alejandro Escovedo: Humphreys by the Bay, Thursday, August 8, 7 p.m. 800-745-3000. $55.