The Crossing by Alejandro Escovedo

Release date: September 14, 2018
Label: Yep Roc

Back in the Seventies, a joke culture started to flower in Soviet Russia, covering all the ugly aspects of totalitarian systems. Communist or otherwise. One of those jokes when something like this: discussing what constitutes pleasure and joy, when the turn comes to a common Russian living somewhere in remote Siberia, he says this: “imagine, it’s four in the morning, it is snowing outside, the wind is howling. Suddenly, there’s a  harsh knock on your door. A loud voice shouts – KGB here is that the apartment of Ivan Ivanovich! Imagine your pleasure and joy – Ivan Ivanovich is the guy that lives next door!” Of course, that pleasure and joy usually tend to be very short-lived. It is only a matter of time when that knock will be there for you.

I’ve no idea whether in making The Crossing, his latest (15th) album Alejandro Escovedo, one of the standing legends of roots, Americana, folk music had heard that very serious joke somewhere, but the subject matter he covers here, and that is the effects and results of the current surge of totalitarian politics everywhere, not only the place where he is from, rings true for any totalitarianism. No matter where it is rearing its ugly head.

Following the story of a long Mexican and a young Italian immigrant (the album was recorded in Italy with mainly seasoned Italian musicians), he follows their story, as he puts it, “in a different America, one that’s not as open and free as they believed it was going to be.” With his lyrical acumen as sharp as it ever was, Escovedo covers everything from cultural identity to racism and does not miss a single point.

Sometimes, when the focus is given the lyrical theme that runs through an album, the music sometimes takes a second seat. Not with Escovedo and not this time around. With the musical capabilities that have already earned him a tribute album with the names like Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Calexico covering his songs, Escovedo again comes with a 17 song cycle that again shows what a master of roots/Americana/folk/country he really is.

Contributing to a brilliant musical image along with his Italian crew are The Stooges’ James Williamson and MC5’s Wayne Kramer (‘Sonica USA’), Peter Perret and John Perry from The Only Ones (‘Waiting For Me’), roots veteran Joe Ely (‘Silver City’) and a poem was contributed by Richmond Fontaine’s singer/novelist Willy Vlautin. Iron & Wine producer Brian Deck shares production duties too.

The musical excellence presented on The Crossing simply accentuates the potency of Escovedo’s lyrical message, making this album probably one of the strongest musical/lyrical statements this year. Of course, you can disregard either. At your own peril. Otherwise, that knock on the door might become inevitable.

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