Alejandro Escovedo’s concept album spins a new story about the American dream

Alejandro Escovedo’s latest album, “The Crossing,” tells the story of Diego from Mexico and Salvo from Italy, two men who arrive in the United States to live out a dream.

The immigrants long to live in the country that inspired them, courtesy of visceral punk rock, quirky film and deep literature. While the story may sound timely, the seeds for “The Crossing” were planted long ago.

In 2000, Escovedo wrote “By the Hand of the Father, a theatrical production about crossing the border. The San Antonio native crafted a new batch of songs with Italian rock musician Antonio Gramentieri for a poignant and cathartic album.

“Antonio and I believe the story we’re telling is timeless,” Escovedo said in an interview with The News & Observer while calling from Austin. “It’s not just about now and the unfortunate craziness with Donald Trump. People have been migrating to different places for a very long time. People have moved for essential reasons, better weather, for food. But when borders came into play there was a lot of ugliness. That’s the way it is around the world, not just in Mexico and America.”

Escovedo, the son of Mexican immigrants, and Gramentieri spin a new human story about the old American dream for “The Crossing,” a concept album released in September by Hillsborough-based label, Yep Roc Records. Gramentieri joins him on the album, and the tour, under the name Don Antonio. The tour stops at the Cat’s Cradle Jan. 12.

“The boys we wrote about are moved by what’s great about America,” Escovedo says. “They want to experience life here. The story we present is two characters, who are dreamers. And they are so innocent.”

Escovedo was joined in the studio by several A-list pals, including the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, the Stooges’ James Williamson and singer-songwriter Joe Ely.

“It helps to have friends,” Escovedo says. “They’re is no one out there like any of these guys. I’m at a point in life in which I’m losing friends.”

One of Escovedo’s closet friends, iconic director Jonathan Demme, died last year. Demme, who won an Academy Award for directing “Silence of the Lambs,” and acclaim for the innovative Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense,’ was working on a film about Escovedo.

Much of the documentary was shot in the late, beloved Austin Mexican restaurant Las Manitas.

“I loved that place,” Escovedo says. “Jonathan, who was such a great director and a huge music fan, loved it, too. There was no place like it. We shot much of the film there. It’s unfinished, and without Jonathan, I don’t see how it will ever be finished.”

The cow-punk recording artist keeps moving on. He left his beloved longtime home of Austin three-years ago for Dallas.

“It just got really expensive in Austin,” Escovedo says. “It’s difficult for a musician to afford the cost of living there, but my wife and I are happy in Dallas. I thought we would only be there for six months but we’re living in a two-bedroom in a hotel. It’s been good for us. We’re social and having a great time. I’m still living in America.”

But change is coming to the United States, Escovedo said, and it’s clear he has strong opinions about the Trump administration’s immigration policies. He said he remains optimistic about the direction of the United States.

“I believe there is hope. I believe the future of America will be a country in which we can cross the border without what is happening now. It’s going to get better. We just have to get through this and we’ll accomplish that.”


Who: Alejandro Escovedo Band with Don Antonio

When: 8 p.m. Jan. 12

Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro

Tickets: $20 in advance and $25 day of show.

Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com