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Alejandro Escovedo/Cheri Knight

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With his ambitious third album, With These Hands (Rykodisc), Alejandro Escovedo breaks through the powerful but painful testimonials of his first two solo outings. While he's come to grips with his estranged wife's suicide and happily remarried, he hasn't necessarily opted for lighter subject matter. The gritty "Little Bottles" tells how a self-absorbed loser destroys a relationship, while the soaring chorus of "Put You Down" belies the obsessiveness of the tunnel-visioned narrator. No longer wringing the pain from his own soul, Escovedo delicately, sympathetically, and poetically elucidates the inner demons and everyday travails of others. The album delivers his most substantive musical punch as well. His warm, slow-bubbling melodies are given alternately dense, sumptuous, and spare treatments that help the ballads flutter and the rockers rock. Escovedo's also an ever-improving performer, and he hasn't been in town for a while. The Linda Thompson-esque warble of Cheri Knight was one of the highlights in the music of Boston's late Blood Oranges. With her solo debut, The Knitter (ESD), she proves she can hold her own. Amid a flavorful, guitar-heavy concoction of Neil Young-ish rockers, Richard Thompson-like drones, and feisty two-beat country rock, Knight's smoky, warm voice envelops her often dark songs with a glovelike fit. The barrage of unvaried mid-tempo rockers is a slight problem, but Knight's strong writing gets her by. Escovedo performs around town three times in the next two weeks, but Knight only appears on Friday's Schubas bill. Friday, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508. Saturday, 10 PM, and next Wednesday, July 3, 9:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Todd V. Wolson.

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