A Revved-up Alejandro Escovedo

Alejandro Escovedo with Don Antonio at City Winery, NYC, January 19, 2019. 

The improbable pairing of Italian band Don Antonio and Mexican-American singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo made for some riveting rock ‘n’ roll at Escovedo’s concert at City Winery Saturday night (when these guys sing, “rev up the amps,” they know what to do next). Escovedo has apparently never paid much attention to the lines most people draw for themselves, mixing punk, roots, and rancheros, just for starters.

Needing a backing band for a European tour a couple of years ago, Escovedo discovered Don Antonio and felt an immediate kinship. The group traveled to southern Italy, where certain aspects of the region—spicy foods, desert-meets-ocean—reminded the singer (again improbably) of Mexico.

The band with an image from the cover of The Crossing.

Now Escovedo and Don Antonio, led by guitarist and raconteur Antonio Gramentiere —“Our lives were saved by twist music,” he said of his small town’s youth—have made The Crossing, a concept album about two teenage immigrants, one Italian, one Mexican, who, in looking for the America whose music they have lovingly absorbed, discover bigotry as well: “America’s beautiful / America’s ill”  (“Teenage Luggage”). Performing “Outlaw for You” the other night, Escovedo name-checked not only Jack Kerouac and James Dean, as on the record, but Texas progressive Beto O’Rourke.

As you might expect, Escovedo has something to say about our current immigration problem—“I would carry you on my shoulders / Across the muddy river,” he sang in “Texas Is My Mother.” But he closed with a Stooges cover: “Search and Destroy.” Come to think of it, that was right on message too.

Antonio Gramentiere and Alejandro Escovedo co-wrote The Crossing.

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