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    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Alejandro Escovedo @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, 10-8-06

    Alejandro Escovedo has the kind of trajectory meant for a Behind The Music episode. He produced great albums in relative obscurity, earning industry respect but little fanfare. For his ‘90s genre-defying output, No Depression named him the Artist of The Decade. Then after the commercial break—bam! life sneaks in with its pivotal fuck-you twist of the knife—he collapsed onstage in Phoenix in 2003. He had Hepatitis C and his body had given up. Dosed with a drug regimen, an uninsured Escovedo got weaker and more broken down. He had gotten to a lower point than most people ever reach.

    But wait, that last ten minutes of the episode guarantees an uplifting rebound. And Escovedo’s is as bright as his fall was dark. Inspired artists banded together to record a tribute album, Por Vida, to help cover the medical bills. Escovedo recovered slowly to enjoy the company of his new wife and daughter. And he returned to this year with one of his best albums, The Boxing Mirror, and a live show that’s even better.

    His set at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass proved to be my highlight of the festival. In a forty-five-minute window, Escovedo rocked with the rejuvenated spirit of a man reborn. Every song felt fully formed and alive, whether it was a new fist-pump anthem like “Break This Time” or an older classic like “Castanets.” He dedicated the latter song to Joe Strummer and added that he felt “humiliated” when George Bush featured it as a favorite on his iPod list. Matt Fish’s cello routinely sweetened the electric roar of the guitar and Escovedo even threw in a dash of harmonica for good measure. It was all lively, lovely and inspiring. Escovedo was in top form that afternoon, confirming that's where he’s belonged all along.

    * MP3: "Sacramento and Polk" - Alejandro Escovedo from The Boxing Mirror
    * MP3: "Arizona" - Alejandro Escovedo from The Boxing Mirror [Buy it]
    * Artist Website: Alejandro Escovedo

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