ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO'S VOICE is warm and solid as he talks to me from his home in Wimberley, Texas. "When I was in the True Believers," he says, referring to a band that he played in with his brother in the '80s, "we wanted to be like the Mott the Hoople of the Southwest. When we did a ballad, we wanted it to be beautiful. When we rocked, we wanted it to be God-like rock. The Mexican influence was a result of my upbringing and the music my parents listened to, and I always try to work in some more atmospheric stuff—to make it like a Brian Eno song that's rooted in a Mexican sound."
With such an economy of words, Escovedo laid out the four main musical threads that have evolved in his work since drifting away from the Texas punk scene over two decades ago. Now, after a nearly fatal battle with Hepatitis C and a tremendous outpouring of support from the music community that culminated in Por Vida, a tribute album featuring Lucinda Williams, John Cale, Son Volt, Steve Earle, and more, Escovedo has hit a beautiful stride with The Boxing Mirror, his best album to date.
"I just had to work hard and dig deep and come up with something that I hadn't reached before," he told me about his new album. "I think a large part of John's [Cale, who produced the album] intention was to make a record of a person who is strong and healthy." That's an understandable goal for an artist who just looked death in the face, and Escovedo pulls it off well. He sounds more at home in his voice than ever before, and the album swings from genre to genre smoothly, despite incorporating punkish distortion, Mexican-inspired balladry, and string arrangements. It's the sort of album that burrows into you, and reveals more of itself the more you open up to it.
With odes to heads mounted on walls, bucks that trample wandering does, moons brighter than the sun, and a woman who stores her past in a depression jar, The Boxing Mirror is a rich and complex surface where, if you spend enough time, you just might discover yourself as well.