Room of Songs
This limited edition album documents two performances of the AE String Quintet at the Cactus Café in Austin, Texas, on February 28th and March 1st, 2005. Bringing Alejandro Escovedo’s longstanding love for strings to full fruition, Room of Songs arranges several of his best-known song for two guitars, two cellos, and a violin. While the strings are suited to some songs more than others, they feel completely natural in this setting — think cantina, not concert hall. At times the strings enhance the mournfulness of a certain song (“Baby’s Got New Plans”) and at other points they guide the instruments into climactic tension (“Bury Me”). Some songs, like the sneering rocker “Everybody Love Me” and the anthemic “Velvet Guitar,” appear drastically different in this setting. On Escovedo’s radical re-envisioning of the Gun Club’s “Sex Beat,” the strings simply provide a musical contrast, laying a warm bed for the searing harmonica that tears across the song. The strings weave themselves so thoroughly into the fabric of the sublime “Rosalie” that it becomes hard to tell which instrument is playing what. Perhaps best of all is the short-but-sweet “Juarez,” a Mexicali instrumental that is unique to this album and feels like the theme to an as-yet-unfilmed Western romance.