Since ending his leather-clad rocker days as one of Austin's incendiary True Believers, Alejandro Escovedo has more or less crafted his own genre of introspective, mystical, and musically wide-ranging solo work. He's also played almost nonstop—that is until the potentially life-threatening hepatitis C forced him off the stage last year. Escovedo is an icon among his fellow musicians, and when it came time to help the San Antonio­born singer with his mounting medical bills, so many artists clamored for a seat at the table that POR VIDA: A TRIBUTE TO THE SONGS OF ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO (Or Music) quickly grew to a double-CD set. One record might have been a better choice. Escovedo has learned to work powerfully with a limited vocal range, and not everyone can operate inside his constricted melodies. For the most part, Los Lonely Boys copy him, and Jennifer Warnes misses the anger and sadness of "Pissed Off 2am." Still, John Cale, Tres Chicas, Lucinda Williams, Bob Neuwirth, and the Jayhawks all transform their selections. And hearing Ian Hunter (of Mott the Hoople fame), whom Escovedo spent years emulating in the Troobs, turn the tables on "One More Time" is a real delight. At its best, Por Vida offers nuances and inflections that make you admire Escovedo's work in completely new ways, which, disregarding monetary considerations, is this project's real reward.

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