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Alejandro Escovedo Alejandro Escovedo
Album: Burn Something Beautiful
Label: Fantasy
Tracks: 13

It's an enduring mystery why Tex-Mex rocker Escovedo is not better known and more widely appreciated on this side of the pond. His blue collar bar room factory floor anthems for souls lost and found have much to tell us about ourselves and each other - indeed, at his best he's more than a match for Springsteen, The Hold Steady, The Replacements, Ian Hunter, Lou Reed and countless others whose names are more familiar than this Texican cult hero.

Still, I don't suppose he's complaining, not after his battles with hep-C, PTSD and all manner of other obstacles, although he does seem pretty keen to tell us throughout this record that he's said all he has to say, never more emphatically than on I Don't Want To Play Guitar Anymore and the troubled Farewell to the Good Times.

That he has resisted the urge to hang up his plectrum and keep his mouth shut is to be welcomed by lovers of honest-to-goodness, balls-out rock 'n' roll delivered with gusto, grace and an open heart. For that there may well be a debt of gratitude owed to the album's co-writers and producers Peter Buck (yes, from REM) and Scott McCaughey who've more than played their part in teasing out such a vibrant, affirmative record of the moment that takes the sound out of the heritage bin and moves it centre stage.

As ever, there's a little darkness on the edge of town as Escovedo assesses his current situation and casts a net for the next move - in Suit of Light he revels in a gory but sanguine love, Beauty of Your Smile broods and drones with aggressive passion, while as befits its portentous title Redemption Blues chronicles the continuing search for personal peace as he wonders about the future while staring into oblivion.

Musically, Escovedo is as fiery as ever, comfortably accommodating country and blues-rock, southern boogie, zydeco, brown-eyed soul, even T. Rex and the New York Dolls; and while there's a stack of personal troubles to ponder here, Burn Something Beautiful also delivers on less cerebral ground as the album opener Horizontal soundtracks a beery bleary neon night out before giving way to the delicious Heartbeat Smile, which captures that sweet moment, then leads us into the more introspective Byrds-infused Sunday Morning Feeling.

Emotionally vivid and sonically rich, Burn Something Beautiful finds the refocused Escovedo at the peak of his considerable powers.

Nick Churchill