How do you like your Alejandro Escovedo? One of the reasons this talented Austin rocker has never escaped critical-favorite status is that he’s an encyclopedia of musical genres; it’s hard for fans to reconcile his confessional, string-laden ballads with his riff-heavy punk. Yet those two styles have always been part of who he is, and over the years, Escovedo has converted a who’s who of marquee names. He used to emulate Ian Hunter and Bruce Springsteen; now they play on his albums. Since his near-fatal bout with hepatitis C, in 2003, every release has had a theme to impart. Street Songs of Love (Fantasy) backs away from that somewhat. The album isn’t as autobiographical as 2008’s Real Animal, but there are still signs of turmoil; many of these songs treat love as something unfathomable. The material was worked out live in a club and recorded with Escovedo’s touring band in less than two weeks. As a result, his snarling onstage persona is in full bloom, and the best songs are wrenched out hard and fast. “I’ve got a tender heart,” he growls, admitting vulnerability over a pounding rock beat.
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