Alejandro Escovedo Real Animal

This veteran Texan troubadour has long been critically revered (once named "Artist of the Decade” by No Depression) but commercially overlooked. It’s great to see that change a little now thanks to a recent Boss connection — Real Animal’s opening track, "Always A Friend,” has just been covered by Springsteen. Quite the compliment, though it’s actually far from the best cut. Escovedo’s previous album, the intense The Boxing Mirror, reflected his near-death experience, but here he gives his rock’n’roll side free rein. That may not thrill those who prefer his subtler chamber roots material but the rest of us can revel in the riffery. Co-written with fellow rock survivor Chuck Prophet (Green On Red), it has the feel of a memoir, as Escovedo looks back on his fascinating career. A highlight, "Chelsea Hotel ’78,” relates his brush with Sid and Nancy, while "Nuns Song” and "Chip ‘N Tony” are inspired by his early bands, Frisco punks the Nuns and cowpunk pioneers Rank and File. The gorgeously tender "Sister Lost Soul” looks at comrades lost along the way, while "Real As An Animal” is a suitably fiery homage to Iggy and the Stooges, a key influence. The musically dynamic range mirrors Escovedo’s freewheeling, genre-defying career and ace producer Tony Visconti (another of his heroes) does Escovedo proud. The "Ashes to Ashes” snippet on "Golden Bear” is one of many cool touches. Escovedo remains the real deal and richly deserves any success coming his way. (Manhattan/BackPorch)