Alejandro Escovedo has been a longtime favorite of the Fretboard Journal. On November 16, 2013, amidst all the noise of a soundcheck at Seattle’s Tractor Tavern, we captured this amazing solo take of “By Eleven.” Escovedo is playing his 2005 Collings CJ SB.
Fretboard Journal: You’re playing a Collings but I always think of you playing a Gibson acoustic.
Alejandro Escovedo: That Gibson came to me through an old friend. I was in the True Believers, went to Kansas City and met these guys in a band called Absolute Ceiling. We bonded instantly and I especially bonded with this guy Jim Strahm. Years later, he opened up a guitar shop. He used to collect everything Americana. Even in those days, he had Airstreams, all the old Levi’s, all the great Harleys and everything. He had all that stuff and he was a very generous guy. He’d opened up this guitar shop and I know so many kids, of course older now, who walked in there with Kramers and stuff and he’d go, “No, you need this old Tele. Play this!” That’s the kind of guy he was.
So when I started playing more acoustic, I started out with a Washburn, I had an Alvarez… I went through all those. And then one day he came to me and he goes, “You need to play this.” It was a ’56 J-45 and it was just amazing. Everyone who’s ever played that guitar says it’s the greatest guitar they’ve ever played.
[Strahm] was so dear to me, the guitar became very close to me. I wrote probably the bulk of my stuff on that guitar.
FJ: Acoustic and electric?
AE: Everything. So when he passed away, it took on even more significance. I think the guitar actually belongs to Matt [Kesler], his partner. It’s kind of like we have these guitars that belong in our family of friends, you know. Like my ’69 Hummingbird went to a good friend who’s in Montana now playing country songs.
FJ: Being in Austin, you must know the Collings guys well.
AE: I know the Collings guys. I love ‘em, too. They make great guitars. The first time I opened up this guitar was with John Cale. He was producing my record. We picked it up and we played it and we both went, “Man!” It’s like a piano, you know. It just rings… it’s so beautiful. I love this thing. When the J-45 kind of retired – it was tired and needed to stay home – I brought this guy out. It’s been amazing.
FJ: You sound great solo. Would you ever consider releasing a completely solo record?
AE: I’ve never done that. I’m scared to death of that!