Holly George-Warren
August 06, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In his 30-year career, Alejandro Escovedo has been a punk rocker, alt-country pioneer, garage-band leader, singer-songwriter, and composer, all culminating in the 2000 musical ”By the Hand of the Father,” a bittersweet meditation on his Mexican-American heritage. Just as eclectic as his sonic explorations are the covers on Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo, this superb two-CD set created to benefit Escovedo, who’s been debilitated by hepatitis C. Among the gems: Lucinda Williams’ bluesy ”Pyramid of Tears” and Los Lonely Boys’ rockin’ ”Castanets.” But no matter who’s singing, Escovedo’s remarkable songcraft shines through.

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