With These Hands (Rykodisc) should have been Alejandro Escovedo's triumph, but it ended up as just another trial for the Austin singer-songwriter. Musically the 1996 release, his third solo effort, was his most accomplished, and lyrically he finally seemed to have moved beyond his estranged wife's suicide--although his new stories were just as poignant and troubling as the more blatantly personal ones on the previous records. But though the album did fairly well, he and Rykodisc failed to see eye to eye on the terms for another one. Recently Chicago's Bloodshot label leapt to Escovedo's aid, issuing More Miles Than Money: Live 1994-96, a collection recorded in Austin, Seattle, Portland, Paris, San Diego, and Davis, California; it's the first documentation of his powerful live persona. His raucous cover of the Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog" shows that he hasn't entirely surrendered his punk-rock past, but more often than not his performances favor a mesmerizing acoustic intensity. (I don't know whether it signifies anything or not, but this new collection leans heavily on his earlier material, particularly achingly pretty songs of loss and longing like "She Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "Five Hearts Breaking.") For this show, Escovedo will be accompanied by a cellist, a violinist, and a guitarist in addition to his own strumming. Saturday, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 773-525-7793. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Todd V. Wolfson.