Review: Alejandro Escovedo Tells an Immigrants Tale in the Language of Native Sons

Photo credit: Nancy Rankin Escovedo 

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Alejandro Escovedo/La Cruzada/Yep Roc
Four out of Five Stars 

Alejandro Escovedo has always worn his feelings close to his proverbial sleeve. Originally considered an insurgent, he affirmed that rebellious reputation with the bands Rank and File and the Nuns, imprinting his Tejano influences on the sounds that were sweeping London and New York throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The Clash, Graham Parker and Elvis Costello all exerted an influence on those early efforts, but it’s a tribute to both his talent and tenacity that Escovedo rapidly established his own imprint and became a solo star that could exert considerable influence on others.

Not surprisingly then, when Escovedo released The Crossing in 2018, it marked not only a highlight of his career but a signature statement as well. It found him retracing his roots as the son of Mexican immigrants and as an artist deeply committed to a deeply entrenched heritage. It was a theme he had visited before, specifically on the album By the Hand of the Father, released some 16 years before. Nevertheless, The Crossing resonated in a deeper way. A concept album that tells the story of one Mexican boy and one Italian boy who crossed the border into the U.S., it detailed the pair’s ensuing encounters with racism and discrimination. It’s a topic that takes on added meaning in light of today’s tempestuous political climate.

With La Cruzada, Escovedo retraces the original album while rerecording its songs in Spanish. It’s appropriate, of course, given the specific narrative that accompanies the storyline. It also follows the recent release of the Mavericks’ Spanish-language set En Espanol, with which it shares an homage to the artist’s heritage. It follows then, that nothing’s lost in translation; on songs such as “Equipaje Adolescente” and “Algo Azul,” the passion and delivery shine through as vividly as ever. The music is both driving and dynamic, as shared in other examples as well—the rollicking “Bandido Para Ti” (which, not so coincidentally, name drops punk icon Johnny Thunders), the hypnotic “Amor Puro View,” the supple sway found in “Cuantas Veces” and  “Esperándome,” the tender touch of “Ciudad Plateada,” and in the rollicking and robust “Sónica USA,” all among the many. 

Here again, language is no barrier. Emotion creates empathy. And, in turn, it allows La Cruzada to resonate as a work that’s consistently compelling.

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