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Various Artists|Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo

Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo

Various Artists

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Alejandro Escovedo has been making memorable music of one kind or another since the mid-'70s, but it wasn't until he released his first solo album in 1992, Gravity, that he began to reveal the full extent of his gifts as a songwriter. A lyricist with a remarkable ability to find subtle beauties and difficult truths in the stuff of everyday lives, Escovedo also has a superb ear for a melody, whether he is writing for a small acoustic group or a roaring full-on rock band, and Gravity was nothing short of a revelation, with his subsequent albums only confirming Escovedo's talent. In April of 2003, it was announced that Escovedo had been diagnosed with potentially deadly Hepatitis C; adding to this dire news was the fact that, like many artists and musicians, Escovedo had no health insurance to help pay his extensive medical bills. It's a telling indication of the respect with which Escovedo is held as an artist and as a person that friends and admirers around the country began organizing benefit shows to help the songwriter in his time of crisis, a grassroots effort that eventually grew into the album Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo, a sprawling two-disc set whose proceeds benefit the Alejandro Escovedo Medical and Living Expense Fund. Por Vida features no fewer than 31 newly recorded covers from Escovedo's songbook, as well as a new tune Alejandro recorded for the occasion, and the list of participants includes at least three of Escovedo's musical heroes (John Cale, Ian Hunter, and Ian McLagan), several frequent collaborators (Jon Dee Graham, Charlie Sexton, Chris Stamey), and a list of admirers and well-wishers whose musical spheres range from pop (Jennifer Warnes) to blues (Charlie Musselwhite) to jazz (Pete Escovedo and Sheila E.) to Tejano (Rubén Ramos) to alt-country (Son Volt, who reunited for their contribution here), with any number of other sounds represented along the way. Given the almost dizzying variety of artists and styles encompassed on Por Vida, what's most remarkable about the album is how consistent it is; the quality of these songs is a given, but the performances are strong and emphatic from front to back, as if the musicians wanted to be sure that they gave the songs the interpretations they deserved. And despite the leaps from genre to genre, the voice of Alejandro Escovedo rings out clear and present on every track, and it's good to be able to report that his own track, "Break This Time," is a hearty rocker that pays no mind to his difficult circumstances. It would have been easy for Por Vida to come off as just another benefit set or tribute disc, with plenty of well-meaning but tossed-off performances from musicians who were easy to round up at the moment, but thankfully that's not how it turned out -- instead, it's a loving homage from a group of gifted artists to one of their own, and the result speaks not of illness or death, but of music created "por vida"...for life.
© Mark Deming /TiVo

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Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo

Various Artists

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1
Pyramid of Tears
Lucinda Williams
00:04:47

Lucinda Williams, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

2
Sacramento & Polk
Lenny Kaye
00:04:37

Lenny Kaye, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

3
Paradise
Steve Earl
00:03:49

Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Steve Earl, MainArtist - Reckless Kelly, MainArtist

4
Broken Bottle
John Langford
00:03:54

Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Sally Timms, MainArtist - John Langford, MainArtist

5
Wave
Calexico
00:04:04

Calexico, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

6
Pissed of 2am
Jennifer Warnes
00:04:30

Jennifer Warnes, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

7
She Doesn't Live Here Anymore
John Cale
00:04:41

John Cale, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

8
Castanets
Los Lonely Boys
00:03:35

Los Lonely Boys, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

9
Don’t Need You
Cowboy Junkies
00:04:23

Cowboy Junkies, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

10
Dear Head On the Wall
Charlie Sexton
00:03:49

Charlie Sexton, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Kim Christoff, Writer

11
Helpless
Jon Dee Graham
00:03:37

Jon Dee Graham, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

12
She Towers Above
Howe Gelb
00:04:23

Howe Gelb, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

13
Wedding Day
Iam McLagan
00:04:07

Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Iam McLagan, MainArtist - The Bump Band, MainArtist

14
Rhapsody
Tres Chicas
00:03:58

Tres Chicas, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

15
The End
Peter Case
00:03:40

Peter Case, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Turner Stephen Bruton, Writer

16
Rosalie
Bob Neuwirth
00:05:28

Bob Neuwirth, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

17
Crooked Frame
The Section Quartet
00:03:59

The Section Quartet, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

DISC 2

1
One More Time
Ian Hunter
00:04:14

Ian Hunter, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

2
Last To Know
Jayhawks
00:05:06

Jayhawks, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

3
Velvet Guitar
Nicolas Tremulis Orchestra
00:04:49

Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Nicolas Tremulis Orchestra, MainArtist

4
The Ballad of the Sun and the Moon
Pete Escovedo
00:04:53

Pete Escovedo, MainArtist - Sheila E., MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

5
One True Love
The Chris Stamey Experience
00:05:26

Chris Stamey, Writer - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - The Chris Stamey Experience, MainArtist - Roman Candle, FeaturedArtist

6
Sometimes
Son Volt
00:05:38

Son Volt, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

7
Inside This Dance
Rosie Flores
00:04:55

Rosie Flores, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

8
Everybody Loves Me
Charlie Musselwhite
00:04:05

Charlie Musselwhite, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

9
Way It Goes
Howe Gelb
00:03:48

M. Ward, MainArtist - Howe Gelb, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Vic Chestnutt, MainArtist

10
The Rain Won't Help You When It's Over
Javier Excovedo
00:04:19

Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Javier Excovedo, MainArtist

11
By Eleven
Caitlin Gary
00:04:05

Alejandro Escovedo, Writer - Caitlin Gary, MainArtist

12
I Was Drunk
The Minus 5
00:02:38

The Minus 5, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

13
Gravity
The Dragons
00:06:51

The Dragons, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

14
Thirteen Years
Ruben Ramos
00:04:41

Ruben Ramos, MainArtist - Alejandro Escovedo, Writer

15
Break This Time
Alejandro Escovedo
00:04:09

Alejandro Escovedo, Writer, MainArtist

Album Description

Alejandro Escovedo has been making memorable music of one kind or another since the mid-'70s, but it wasn't until he released his first solo album in 1992, Gravity, that he began to reveal the full extent of his gifts as a songwriter. A lyricist with a remarkable ability to find subtle beauties and difficult truths in the stuff of everyday lives, Escovedo also has a superb ear for a melody, whether he is writing for a small acoustic group or a roaring full-on rock band, and Gravity was nothing short of a revelation, with his subsequent albums only confirming Escovedo's talent. In April of 2003, it was announced that Escovedo had been diagnosed with potentially deadly Hepatitis C; adding to this dire news was the fact that, like many artists and musicians, Escovedo had no health insurance to help pay his extensive medical bills. It's a telling indication of the respect with which Escovedo is held as an artist and as a person that friends and admirers around the country began organizing benefit shows to help the songwriter in his time of crisis, a grassroots effort that eventually grew into the album Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo, a sprawling two-disc set whose proceeds benefit the Alejandro Escovedo Medical and Living Expense Fund. Por Vida features no fewer than 31 newly recorded covers from Escovedo's songbook, as well as a new tune Alejandro recorded for the occasion, and the list of participants includes at least three of Escovedo's musical heroes (John Cale, Ian Hunter, and Ian McLagan), several frequent collaborators (Jon Dee Graham, Charlie Sexton, Chris Stamey), and a list of admirers and well-wishers whose musical spheres range from pop (Jennifer Warnes) to blues (Charlie Musselwhite) to jazz (Pete Escovedo and Sheila E.) to Tejano (Rubén Ramos) to alt-country (Son Volt, who reunited for their contribution here), with any number of other sounds represented along the way. Given the almost dizzying variety of artists and styles encompassed on Por Vida, what's most remarkable about the album is how consistent it is; the quality of these songs is a given, but the performances are strong and emphatic from front to back, as if the musicians wanted to be sure that they gave the songs the interpretations they deserved. And despite the leaps from genre to genre, the voice of Alejandro Escovedo rings out clear and present on every track, and it's good to be able to report that his own track, "Break This Time," is a hearty rocker that pays no mind to his difficult circumstances. It would have been easy for Por Vida to come off as just another benefit set or tribute disc, with plenty of well-meaning but tossed-off performances from musicians who were easy to round up at the moment, but thankfully that's not how it turned out -- instead, it's a loving homage from a group of gifted artists to one of their own, and the result speaks not of illness or death, but of music created "por vida"...for life.
© Mark Deming /TiVo

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