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Alejandro Escovedo

The Crossing – 2018 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Alejandro Escovedo

Alejandro Escovedo's "The Crossing" is an extensive concept album. Social commentary and nostalgia are in evidence as Escovedo examines the immigrant experience delivered in a diverse mix of country, folk, blues and jazz over the course of an hour with a nod to the artist's roots in punk rock. Amongst the more tasteful tracks is a cover of Joe Ely's "Silver City" on which the songwriter joins Escovedo on harmony vocals.

The recurring theme of immigration is told through the experiences of an Italian named Salvo and a Mexican named Diego as characterized by a handwritten synopsis in the liner notes that ends with the mournful observation that "What they found is an America that no longer existed." The rocker "Teenage Luggage" addresses this perceived decline ("America is beautiful/America is ill/America's a blood stain in a honky tonk kill") featuring former Stooges guitarist James Williamson, as does "Fury and Fire" with a pointed reference to the controversial utterance that initiated the Trump candidacy ("They call us rapists/So they build a bigger wall"). The closing title track sums it up with the declaration "It seems the times have changed/They've broken all the pretty things."

The most hopeful tracks are "Sonica USA" (featuring former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer), which conveys Escovedo's passion for the music of his youth ("I saw the Zeros and they look like me/This is the America that I want to be"), and the jazzy ballad "Flying" ("I've got a dream/It's right here in my pocket/And with your love/I know we can unlock it").

Produced by Escovedo with Brian Deck and Antonio Gramentieri (who co-wrote the 16 originals) other notable guests are vocalist Peter Perret and guitarist John Perry (Only Ones), vocalist Emma Morton and the Prague Metropolitan Orchestra. With Escovedo's strong performances and poignant compositions, this ambitious effort succeeds.