Alejandro Escovedo isn't supposed to be sitting on a park bench and smiling on this sunny afternoon in his hometown of Austin, Texas.
Four years earlier, he collapsed onstage in Tucson during a performance of By the Hand of the Father, a critically acclaimed play built around songs Escovedo had written about the struggle of several Mexican-Americans to assimilate into American society.
The culprit was Hepatitis C, and it left him with internal bleeding, advanced cirrhosis of the liver, damage to his esophagus and a grim prognosis.
"[The doctors] really didn't talk about recovery," Escovedo says. "It wasn't about me ever being whole again."
For a time, Escovedo's regimen of interferon and ribavirin didn't work, leaving him weak and frail.
But then Escovedo tried something less conventional a holistic treatment approach that involved, among other things, Tibetan medicine, Chinese medicine, acupuncture and massage therapy.
The regimen clicked, and today Escovedo, who first gained notice fronting the country punk band Rank and File in the early 1980s, is back with one of year's best CDs, The Boxing Mirror.
It offers stirring rock ("Break this Time") delicate balladry ("The Ladder") and gems like "Dear Head on the Wall," which encompasses roots rock, folk, blues and Mexican music.
Live, Escovedo is even more dynamic than on album.
"We've got a lot of songs to choose from, so it's always fun," he says of his live show. "We could probably go out for a week and do a different set every night."
Alejandro Escovedo, with Dalhart Imperials
Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Saturday, Sept. 9, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $16, 21-plus; visit nipp.com.