San Antonio-born Alejandro Escovedo got a new lease on life when he overcame a severe case of hepatitis C that sidelined him from music, left him too weak to walk for a while, and had doctors believing he wouldn't survive the disease. Since recovering, Escovedo has made what arguably are the four best CDs of his 20-year solo career, including his new release, Big Station, which was released in June and will be presented September 24 at the Lila Cockrell Theatre opening for John Prine.
"I did not want to repeat Street Songs Of Love," said Escovedo in a recent phone interview, referring to his 2010 album. "With Big Station, Chuck Prophet and I wrote [an album] that [is] a little more rhythmic, a little more song-oriented than the last albums and maybe with a little more atmosphere and space in the material."
Besides Prophet, Big Station reunited him with producer Tony Visconti (known for his work with David Bowie), who had worked with him in 2008's Real Animal and Street Songs of Love. His guitarist of 11 years, David Pulkingham, left to start a solo career and was replaced by Billy White, while his drummer of 26 years, Héctor Muñoz, was replaced with Chris Searles (who has recorded with Escovedo in the past). Even with its space and texture, Big Station turned into a different kind of album than Escovedo initially envisioned.
"If you heard the demos that [Prophet] and I did together, it's a completely different album," Escovedo said. "I really wanted like a more raw, kind of sparse feel to the record, and it turned out to be, in a way, one of the most produced albums I've made. But I think that's where [Visconti] comes in. Once he starts working his magic, it always leads it to a really beautiful place."
What Escovedo and Visconti avoided, though, was adding the kind of extensive orchestral parts that had been woven into songs on A Man Under The Influence (2001) and The Boxing Mirror (2006). This will enable Escovedo and his band (White, Searles, and bassist Bobby Daniel) to re-create the Big Station songs live.
"That's really important for me now," Escovedo said. "When I made my first solo record with [producer] Stephen Bruton [1992's Gravity], there was one thing he always really impressed upon me — that you've got to make records that you can play live. And a band like mine, we're all about being on the road. So we're a live band … and it's a great band."
John Prine feat. Alejandro Escovedo
$49.50-$59.50 (plus charges)
8pm Mon, Sep 24
Lila Cockrell Theatre
200 E Market