Produced by former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of The Fresh Young Fellows and The Minus 5 renown, ‘Burn Something Beautiful’ is the twelfth solo outing from Texas based Mexican American singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo.
Despite his status as a prolific recording artist; spanning styles as disparate as punk rock, roots rock and alternative country; in both his own right and as a collaborator with the likes of Ryan Adams, Escovedo has never scaled the commercial heights of his contemporaries but has earned the respect of many, evident in the contributions from both Buck and McCaughey in terms of not only production on ‘Burn Something Beautiful’ but also in song writing and performance.
The efforts of all three have come to fruition in the form of a solid rock ‘n’ roll album, bristling with exuberance, resistance and emotion. In recent years, Escovedo has fallen on hard times; having narrowly avoided a brush with death by hepatitis C and a diagnosis with post-traumatic stress disorder. These trials and tribulations are probably best explored on I Don’t Want To Play Guitar Anymore on which he deplores “I don’t know if I’m dying but I can’t catch my breath, no stories left to sing”.
Otherwise, Escovedo channels his troubles into a style of good, old-fashioned, authentic, guitar driven rock ‘n’ roll the likes of which stylistically we just don’t hear any more. His own admiration of the glam rock, proto-punk style spearheaded by the likes of The Velvet Underground, New York Dolls and even T. Rex is as evident here (take the clap/stomp of Shave The Cat or the slither and ramshackle of Johnny Volume) as is his debt to rockabilly and Tex-Mex sonic aesthetics (try listening to Heartbeat Smile and not thinking of Ring of Fire in the way his voice climbs, and of course the scant, powerful Redemption Blues which could just as easily have passed for outlaw country material).
The wall of sound production technique provide space for Escovedo’s emotive voice to take centre-stage, and it’s only fitting. This is the testament of a man with his back against the wall but still plenty left in him to fight his way away from it. The duality of styles may make the album a slow burner, but it’s all the more beautiful for it.