Friday Nite: Nun Goes Buddhist, Alejandro Escovedo Rises Like A Phoenix

On Friday September 29th , former San Franciscan Alejandro Escovedo joins his old pal Chuck Prophet in a special appearance at 12 Galaxies. I’d say it would be worth the trip down Mission St, as the pairing will no doubt produce the potential for some guesting on each others sets.

Both musicians are well known for being semi-unknown, despite having decade plus solo careers, and prior to that having been involved with seminal bands in the 1980’s that influenced the modern No Depression alt-contry scene. Prophet, a guitar player in the influential road dogging rapscallion outfit Green On Red, while Escovedo blazed trails with cowpunkers Rank & File and also the True Believers.

Escovedo, actually the uncle to Prince sidekick Sheila E, never had her hit records, and has lived a long, less “Glamourous Life” than her. Clean of the booze & drugs that weighed him down as a younger man, and rising like a Phoenix to reclaim his place as one America’s finest and mot respected Latino musicians, he seems primed for the run. His storied and at times sordid career are recounted briefly below. Read on for an overview, hear an interview, and to download some sample music tracks from some of his many recent releases…

Alejandro Escovedo’s father was a mariachi musician, his brother’s Pete and Coke played with Santana, but he got his start out here in town as wannabe Johnny Thunders style punker in the Nuns. Now a 55 year old whose fathered 7 kids, his career has splintered off into a wild western buddhist bluesy sorta saga that goes more than a dozen albums deep as a musical artist. His 1998 live album entitled “More Miles Than Money”, sorta starts to tell the story of this musical desperado from the title alone and is a good a place as any to start. Here’s just a few mp3z of some tracks from his many albums to give ya a taste of the repertoire.

From his first solo venture 1992’s Gravity –

Alejandro Escovedo – 5 Hearts Breaking

From 1994’s Thirteen Years –

Alejandro Escovedo – Ballad Of The Sun & The Moon

From 1999’s Bourbonitis Blues –

Alejandro Escovedo – I Was Drunk

Over the years, while based in Austin Tx, he got into the idea of having an orchestra style performance at the annual SXSW Conferences. Amongst those ensemble players he’s plucked some fine local SF musician’s out for road stints including Corey Porter of the Plain High Drifters and Cynthia Wigginton of Bermuda Triangle Service.

One of the last times I recall Alejandro’s name being billed in these parts, it was actually a benefit that Prophet and a slew of others like Dave Alvin, Jonathon Richman, Peter Case etc. played to help pay some of the uninsured Escovedo’s musical bills as he lay in a hospital suffering the effects of Hep C. I’d post a video clip from that rare & memorable night of Alejandro’s music out up here, but you’ll have to ask the lame fat lady at Slim’s for my confiscated tape back…

His health condition was so serious few thougt he would survive to perform, much less tour again. On the opening night of a theatrical piece dedicated to his father Pedro in Tempe AZ, Alejandro Escovedo had become quite ill. Coughing blood at rehersal, he somehow made it through the performance, but collapsed later. Doctors discovered through an endoscopy that the veins in his esophagus had burst, and he had a tumor in his abdomen. This was all complicated by advanced cirrhosis of the liver and Hepatitis C.

While he took in emergency surgery, and a long hard road to recuperation, people convened to raise money for his care… Aside from the SF show I mentioned, a simultaneous one in NYC brought in Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople & Jon Langford of The Mekons, while many other smaller scale events were held around the US. Afterwards 31 acts including Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Los Lonely Boys recorded a two-disc set called “Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo”, which helped Escovedo earn income from his publishing. In what may have been the most fortuitous event of all Roche Pharmaceuticals actually donated medicine that kept him alive.

Meanwhile, Escovedo has since recovered well enough to continue touring, attributing his health to Tibetan Buddhist healing not Interferon, and has released yet another acclaimed recording, produced by Velvet Underground bassist John Cale, out now with distro via EMI.

Here’s a 15 minute phone interview Alejandro did in April with Live Daily upon the release of the new CD “the Boxing Mirror”

Alejandro Escovedo – Interview

See Alejandro Escovedo w/ openers Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express at 12 Galaxies
2565 Mission St SF
$22 at the Door

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