Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Alejandro Escovedo returns to Lexington with first show at Singletary Center

Alejandro Escovedo hasn't released an album since 2012's Big Station, but he has been recording with former R.E.M.-ers.
Alejandro Escovedo hasn't released an album since 2012's Big Station, but he has been recording with former R.E.M.-ers.

Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys

7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall. $18, $22, $27. (859) 257-4929

It was a little less than two decades ago that Alejandro Escovedo introduced himself to Lexington. The time was late June 1996 on a Saturday evening, the place was the long-since-demised Lynagh's Music Club (now Cosmic Charlie's) on Woodland Avenue. The general air of anticipation of what would play out that night was considerable.

Escovedo, already a near legend amid the fertile songwriting/roots music community in Austin, Texas, had just released his third solo album, With These Hands, earning a feature-length profile in Rolling Stone and a truckload of flattering reviews.

But in Lexington, he was a comparative unknown. Still, word had spread enough for the curious to turn out and pack the venue. About 11:30 p.m. (this was, after all, a club show), Escovedo took the stage, launching quietly and confidently into Baby's Got New Plans. His band would eventually boil over into brutish rock 'n' roll (an encore cover of the Stooges anthem I Wanna Be Your Dog shut the show down just after 1 a.m.).

But at the evening's start, backed by violin and cello, Escovedo quickly revealed a songwriting profile full of emotive detail and elegiac sentiment. Throughout the opening tune, the crowd was either amazed or stunned (or both). Whatever the reaction, the attentive quiet that greeted Escovedo was almost as overpowering as the music itself.

Such began an extended courtship between Escovedo and our fair city. He would return numerous times in subsequent years. There were shows with the garage rock troupe Buick MacKane and a joint evening with readings by the late Mississippi novelist Larry Brown.

Some nights were devoted entirely to chamber-style acoustic music. Others were spent indulging in seering rock 'n' roll. At one point, in an exquisite clash of cultures, Escovedo sold out the Lexington Opera House the same night in 2003 that Cher held court two blocks away at Rupp Arena.

Escovedo's fondness for Lexington extended to recording as well. He cut two albums — 2008's Real Animal and 2010's Street Songs of Love — with help from veteran producer Tony Visconti and the prestigious rock songsmith Chuck Prophet here at the now-defunct St. Claire Recording Studio. That widened his audience, earning favorable press from the New York Times and, again, Rolling Stone.

The Lexington visits are a little less frequent these days, but remain plentiful enough to uphold Escovedo's reputation as a regular around these parts. As always, each performance differs in design and intent from the one before.

He paraded the electric instincts of his Sensitive Boys band for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, along with tunes from his Big Station album in 2012. Then last year, he offered a career retrospective in an acoustic duo setting with violinist Susan Voelz at a June concert at Natasha's before encoring in October as part of the all-star post punk pop troupe The Fauntleroys at Willie's Locally Known.

Escovedo returns Saturday with the Sensitive Boys for his first show at the Singletary Center for the Arts (the performance has been moved from the larger Concert Hall to the more intimate upstairs Recital Hall). While no new music has surfaced under his own name since Big Station (The Fauntleroys, however, issued an EP last year), Escovedo has been recording with former R.E.M.-ers and current Minus 5 members Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey. He has also been splitting touring time between acoustic duo and trio shows, co-billed dates with Los Lobos and full band sets with the Sensitive Boys.

For tickets to Saturday's performance, go to Etix.com.

Randall Bramblett Band with Dog House Kitchen

8 p.m. Oct. 23 at Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Road, Louisville. $15. (502) 584-8088.

Jason Isbell may be at the helm of a new generation pack of great Southern songsmiths. But decades ago, Randall Bramblett began penning his own vision of life below the Mason-Dixon line — one with articulate, revealing narratives and a natural affinity for the region's great soul and groove music reserves.

A key member of the neglected Allman Brothers Band spinoff group Sea Level, Bramblett has released a series of sublime solo records, the newest being the aptly titled Devil Music. It's a record that rocks fiercely with heavy attention on dense, humid rhythms. But that tireless, almost sage-like Southern voice still rings true.

We usually get Bramblett in Lexington once a new record surfaces. For now, at least, we will have to make do with a weekend visit to Headliner's Music Hall in Louisville with Dog House Kitchen opening.

For tickets, go to Headlinerslouisville.com.

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