Escovedo did his first four albums without producer Chris Stamey and his last two with Stamey, and it matters.

Escovedo did his first four albums without producer Chris Stamey and his last two with Stamey, and it matters. Stamey knows what to do with Escovedo's songs; he is a producer who will reacquaint a singer/songwriter with the heart of the music. This has never been clearer than with A Man Under the Influence, the best studio performance Escovedo has ever delivered—and it unfolds via the most moving collection of roots-rock tunes he has ever written. The clarity of Stamey's production is the equal of Escovedo's material: "Rosalie," "Wave," "Wedding Day", and "Follow You Down" are deftly realized pieces that articulate love and loss that time and distance only serve to magnify. There's no clutter here, no misdirect- ed energy or gratuitous moments. Escovedo hits the sweet spot with every song, connecting with his audience on an emotional level that endows the album with an unusual resonance.—PVV