Near the top of the list of best live shows I’ve ever seen sits a brief set performed by Alejandro Escovedo and a band of string players at Northampton, Massachusetts’ storied Iron Horse Music Hall in 2006. That’s right—it was an acoustic set, with Escovedo and long-time sideman Jon Dee Graham on guitar, buttressed by a cadre of cellists and violinists. They were billed as The Alejandro Escovedo String Quintet (they played Carnegie Hall later that year), and they rocked—harder than any metal or punk show I’ve witnessed.
Escovedo was, moreover, the epitome of cool that night, treating a small cabaret gig like an arena event and arriving at the show (well after dark) in sunglasses, wearing a svelte suit and escorting a mink-clad model on his right arm. It was a visionary spectacle for a sleepy college town in New England’s Pioneer Valley.
In September Escovedo released his 12th (!) studio outing, Burn Something Beautiful—a record produced (and co-written) by Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5) and Peter Buck (R.E.M.). It is his first album in four years, but the 65-year old—who nearly died from a debilitating bout with Hepatitis-C in the early aughts, in the midst of an insouciant performing career, and who battled back to create some of the best music of his career—shows no signs of slowing down.
Here we remind you of the lead single from Burn Something Beautiful, “Heartbeat Smile,” a song that is quintessentially Escovedo—a rollicking, twangy, barn-burner bolstered by sturdy pop hook and the songwriter’s wry, reedy vocals. Enjoy.
Alejandro Escovedo, “Heartbeat Smile”