"They really pushed me to really work harder on the lyrics and everything, just to make them more concise and really kind of tell a story of what we've been through," Escovedo said in a recent interview. "There's a lot of references to mortality and aging and getting older and still loving to play rock 'n' roll and the demands of that life, not just on us, but on our friends and all our personal heroes who have fallen in the path."
The reflections on mortality are in large part driven by his experiences in late 2014. Escovedo had just married his wife, Nancy Rankin, on Sept. 6 and the couple was honeymooning in Mexico when they learned Hurricane Odile had shifted and was bearing down on the town they were staying in.
The couple hunkered down, huddling in a closet, as Escovedo recounted to The Austin Chronicle after the harrowing experience, but the flooding washed away a wall of the house and they had to flee to a small trailer nearby as the water and the storm kept pounding away.
The couple and their friends rode out the storm in the trailer, unable to flee to safety for two days because of the flooding, snapped trees and downed power lines.
Escovedo was scheduled to play a show in Salt Lake two months after surviving the hurricane, but canceled that date and others, citing exhaustion as he dealt with the emotional aftermath.
"We moved from Austin a year-and-a-half ago, we moved to Dallas, Texas, even though we've been in Austin forever it seems like. In that year-and-a-half I dealt with PTSD, we both dealt with PTSD, we wrote a new album … and I also kicked Hepatitis C. It's completely gone now," he said.
Escovedo had been dealing with Hepatitis C contracted through drug use when he was young and at various times threatened to claim his life. Now, free of the disease, Escovedo is serving as a national spokesman for the Prevent Cancer Foundation and finds himself in a good place.
"I love the people I'm making music with and I'm very healthy right now and I've survived a lot," he said. "I'm very fortunate."
Escovedo got his start in punk, his band The Nuns opening for The Sex Pistols in California in the 1970s. He then headed to Austin and started a new band, Rank and File, which was an influential forefather of the alt-country movement, bringing a guitar-heavy cowpunk sensibility to the evolving genre.
He says his latest album takes him back to some of those origins and it's especially clear on tracks like "Johnny Volume," a throwback to his straight-ahead Texas guitar rock, and "Beauty of Your Smile," a Lou Reed-tinged tune.
And, as Escovedo said, it is a reflective record, with tracks like "Beauty and The Buzz" and "Thought I'd Let You Know," looking back on life from his new vantage point.
While Escovedo can get political at times, his new work, which came out a month prior to the election, is not overtly political.
"At the time I don't think I was prepared for what happened," he said of the Trump election. "I never really thought we'd be in the position we are as a country. I think, for myself, like a lot of other people, I was convinced that it would just never happened. I was convinced we wouldn't allow it to happen. … Maybe the next record would [reflect more of that]."
Escovedo is no stranger to Salt Lake, and he recalls a trip through town and popping into a venue he doesn't remember when or where but it was almost certainly The Zephyr Club circa 1995 and seeing Uncle Tupelo doing a Rank and File song during their sound-check.
"I've always loved playing here," said Escovedo, who also headlined the Zephyr on a few occasions. And there's another draw to the city. "The Red Iguana is a main source of inspiration."
So if you miss Escovedo at the Iguana, make sure to catch him Monday night at The State Room.
With Jesse Malin
P Monday, 8 p.m., doors at 7
Where • The State Room, 638 S. State St., Salt Lake City
Tickets • $22; Ticketfly