Escovedo played punk (the Nuns) in the ’70s and country rock (Rank and File) in the ’80s before becoming a rootsy singer-songwriter. On his first work since surviving a near-fatal bout of hepatitis C, he turns hard-earned experience into haunting reflections on loss, desire, excess, and, ultimately, transcendence. Escovedo’s brooding voice, which can suggest the saddest man on earth, encounters the perfect foil in the savvy and subtle production of Velvet Underground alum John Cale. The finely detailed textures lend the songs a warm chamber-music glow, whether Escovedo is recalling a somber trek across the Southwest or unleashing a rough-and-tumble lament that’s a dead ringer for the Velvets’ scorching classic “Waiting for the Man.” If the ode to his grieving mother is almost too much to bear, a breezy tale of accidental lovers proves he hasn’t forgotten how to hope.

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