Originally released for Record Store Day 2020, La Cruzada, a Spanish version of his 2018 album The Crossing, has been officially released.
30 August 2021 | James Porteous | Clipper Media
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 two young Mexicans 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.
Crossing borders, jumping barriers, taking risks, betting it all: that’s the path Alejandro Escovedo has been taking in his lifelong search for the heart of rock and roll.
The epic 17 song suite comprising The Crossing is about that journey: searching, but not necessarily finding, eyes and ears open all the way. Ranging from sweeping orchestral numbers to classic rock to bursts of 70s punk, the collection finds Escovedo delving further into his lifelong musical journey across his most sonically diverse work yet.
“This says more about me than any of my records without it being a record about me,” Alejandro Escovedo , “The Crossing”
The Crossing tells the tale of two boys, one from Mexico, one from Italy, who meet in Texas to chase their American rock and roll dreams. They discover a not-so-welcoming, very different place from the Promised Land they imagined, with cameos from the likes of Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and James Williamson of the Stooges to show the boys the way.
A Mexican-American kid with Texas roots and California raising taking on immigration issues in two continents with an Italian band, no less, makes perfect sense — if you know Alejandro Escovedo. Forever the curious explorer, he’s been a punk of the rebel kind in The Nuns, a cowpunk of the non-Western variety in Rank and File, commander of a guitar army in The True Believers, an orchestral conductor in his solo work, and a sensitive boy who has outrun death, demons, lust, and lost love in his songs. He has collaborated with Bruce Springsteen, John Cale, Los Lobos, Peter Buck & Scott McCaughey, Tony Visconti, and Chuck Prophet. No Depression magazine declared him the Artist of the Decade.
Two years ago, with a string of European tour dates booked, he went looking for a band from the Continent to back him up. Don Antonio, a seasoned, all-instrumental band from Modigliana , in the northern Italian province of Emilia-Romagna, came highly recommended, but Alejandro wasn’t so sure at first. “They didn’t look like a rock and roll band,” he says. Then he started asking around. Their reputation sealed the deal. “Turns out they’d played with all my friends – Dan Stuart, Howe Gelb, Steve Wynn. Everybody knew them. Apparently, at one time or another, everybody toured with them as a band, made friends with them, or played the festival they put on every year.”
He sent the band a list of thirty songs before meeting up in Modigliana . “We had dinner,” Alejandro says. “We rehearsed a day and a half, then did 35 gigs in 40 days in ten different countries across Europe.
“I fell in love with them.”
Two months later, he was back for more tour dates including the south of Italy.
“That’s when it hit me how similar Mexican culture and Italian culture can be, especially in the south where the food is very spicy, the language is very different, and the desert meets the ocean.”
He learned about a deeper history. His new bandmates teased him for thinking 200 years was a long time.
The stories Alejandro Escovedo has been telling about the great migration across North America over the past 150 years mirrors stories that have been playing out for centuries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. “It’s ancient,” he says. “It’s been going on for centuries. It’s encoded in the DNA of all of us.”
The stories and the melding of music led the band and the artist to extend the collaboration into the studio. “I started developing this idea where a young boy from southern Italy named Salvo and a young boy from Mexico named Diego would meet in South Texas,” Alejandro says. “They were looking for the America they had heard about, seen in films, heard on records,” he says. “They go looking for the MC5, the Stooges, the Dolls, the Ramones, all the American bands that they love. They go looking for the authors, Kerouac and Ginsberg.” Without saying it, they come across a very conservative America. “They find they are in a different America, one that wasn’t as open and free as they had believed it was going to be.” But the story is not just that of Diego and Salvo, it also mirrors that of Alejandro and the co-writer of his songs Antonio Gramentieri.
Antonio, Don Antonio’s guitarist and leader, “speaks very good English, he’s well read, an ex-music journalist” Alejandro says. “He was easy to communicate with.” The album was recorded in a month at a farmhouse in Villafranca, Italy with Brian Deck co-producing (Modest Mouse, Gomez, Iron & Wine). “Playing with these guys, it came out naturally, it was coming out without any thought at all. The things with Italians and their music is, they’re always reaching for melody. It’s always very romantic, even when it’s tragic.” The band also features Denis Valentini on bass, Matteo Monti on drums, Franz Valtieri and Gianni Perinelli on horns plus Nicola Peruch on keyboards.
“My thoughts seem to fit very well with their kind of playing, the instrumentation we had, and the way they approach it,” Alejandro says. “They’re not a rock band. They aren’t a band that grew up playing New York Dolls covers. They grew up playing their own cinematic music. When we get into this orchestral thing, they totally embrace it.”
Keeping the Escovedo edge sharp on The Crossing are his personal heroes Williamson and Kramer. Additional guests include Peter Perrett and John Perry from UK cult band The Only Ones, recording together for the first time since 1980. Joe Ely features on both his own track, “Silver City,” as well as the title track. Rio Navidad – a spoken word track about a Texan ranger – was written by novelist and bandleader Willy Vlautin, and read by his bandmate Freddy Trujillo from Richmond Fontaine and The Delines.
“I wanted them in there because Salvo and Diego were looking for that attitude, that kind of perspective in rock and roll,” Alejandro says. “There’s a line in ‘Sonica USA:’ “I saw the Zeroes and they looked like me/This is the America I want to be/Anarchy in Hollywood/land of the free.’
“When we were playing as the True Believers early on [in the 1980s] we’d play San Marcos, San Antonio [Texas] and get all these Chicano kids in denim vests and Iron Maiden patches. I remember thinking they were into us, not necessarily for the music, but for the fact we were there on stage. They loved that we were doing what we were doing. I wanted to bring the Zeros into it because to me the Zeros were so different than any other band that was happening at the time.
“Salvo and Diego see the Plugz at Larchmont Hall, Cypress Hill – they love everything that has something they can relate to,” says Escovedo. “Seeing Love, the band, was like that to me. They were Chicano, black, white – there weren’t a lot of bands like that. Sam the Sham, Thee Midnighters, the Sir Douglas Quintet. All of that is what I experienced as a kid.
“The Crossing has parts of everything I’ve done and everything I want to do,” Alejandro says. “Lyrically, I say a lot of things I’ve never said, that I held back on. ‘Teenage Luggage’ is about the racism in music and things I’ve encountered along the way, the kinds of things I grew up with as a kid in Orange County, trying to be a surfer. Surfers hated Mexicans.”
Alejandro has lived The Crossing. Now he invites you to join Salvo and Diego as they blaze their trail across America. It’s a journey like none you’ve experienced before.
America is beautiful
America is ill
America’s a blood-stain
In a honky-tonk kill
This is Alejandro Escovedo’s critically acclaimed album, The Crossing, with the vocals recorded in Spanish. With the lyrics translated into and sung in Spanish, the concept album which tells the story of two young immigrants to the US, who bond over a mutual love of punk rock as they struggle with the racism and discrimination as immigrants, becomes an even more intimate experience. It features guest vocalists, as well as Alejandro singing all of the songs from The Crossing in Spanish.
Vocalists on the album include Alex Ruiz (Chingon), Patricia Vonne, Vanessa Del Fierro and Alejandro Escovedo. Tracks like, “Algo Azul,” (“Something Blue”) “Sónica USA” “Bandido Para Ti” (“Outlaw For You”) really shine here.
released August 27, 2021
Originally and exclusively released on LP only for Record Store Day 2020, Latino punk pioneer Alejandro Escovedo‘s La Cruzada garnered seven Billboard chart positions, including his first-ever appearance on the Latin Albums chart, and immediately sold out.
The Spanish version of Escovedo’s 2018 critically acclaimed The Crossing, which was hailed by NPR’s alt.Latino as “possibly his finest recorded work yet” and Rolling Stone as “one of his strongest LPs to date,” La Cruzada will see wide release on LP, CD, and at all digital service providers August 27 via Yep Roc Records. The first single, “Algo Azul,” is out now, and the album available for pre-order.
The 17-song album, which tells the story of two young immigrants to the U.S., who bond over a mutual love of punk rock as they struggle with the racism and discrimination as immigrants, becomes an even more intimate experience. Although not intended to be autobiographical, the album is, in many ways, the story of Alejandro Escovedo’s own life.
Translated and recorded in Spanish, the album’s lead vocals are helmed by Alex Ruiz (Del Castillo), who overlaid Spanish vocals on the original album’s instrumental tracks and features guest vocals from Patricia Vonne, Vanessa Del Fierro, and Escovedo. Escovedo worked with Ruiz to translate the songs together. “I chose Alex because he has a greater command of the Spanish language, and having his voice, especially with this material, story and songs, takes it to a different level than my voice did,” offers Escovedo. In addition, Ruiz’s bandmate Rick del Castillo helped produce the session.
“I began developing this story about a southern Italian boy named Salvo and a young boy named Diego from Saltillo, Mexico, who meet in Galveston, Texas while working in an Italian restaurant,” says Escovedo. “They set out on a journey in search of the America created by beat poets, rock ‘n’ roll savants, new wave films, and the underground garage. The America they discover is a very divided and unwelcoming land filled with racism and unrest. La Cruzada is the realization of a dream that I’ve always had to record an album in Spanish in honor of my father’s heritage, and it has finally come to life.”