I just “introduced” Los Lobos to a buddy of mine. Now, this guy is a huge music fan with what I would describe as pretty eclectic tastes. But up to this point he thought of Los Lobos as the guys who covered “La Bamba” and that was it. He had no further knowledge of them.
Well, five homemade discs later, he’s become a devout fan who wonders why he hadn’t known earlier. I wonder why lots of people don’t know about this band, which has to rank in the top 10 list of rock and roll bands ever. Yes, I said ever.
This CD is the first since the murder of the wife of guitarist/singer Cesar Rosas. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the aftermath colored some of the songs. The feeling is somber, even in the tunes that are upbeat. This record is also somewhat of a departure from their last couple of efforts; they were in “experimental” mode for awhile, and the songs seemed based on simple riffs and feels. That wasn’t a bad thing, just different. Here, the tunes seem again to be more complete and worked out, akin to The Neighborhood and How Will the Wolf Survive?.
One other difference: while there are hints of the East L.A. roots the band always shows, there are no songs completely engulfed in that feel. But for the first time I can think of, that style of music is mixed with their wonderful blend of rock, soul, and blues in the context of the same song. It’s a subtle difference, but one that just makes this band even more well-rounded, something that seemed impossible at one time.
As far as the songs go, there are butt-kickin’ stompers like “Done Gone Blue,” “Get to This,” and the crunchy title cut. As always, they are pushed along by the guitars of Rosas and David Hidalgo. I still say Hidalgo is as good and interesting a guitarist as anybody in the rock field. There are a couple of tunes with soul feels that are as good as anything you’ll here this year. “Hearts of Stone,” with its plaintive lyric and masterful groove, is already one of my favorites. And “The Big Ranch” has a great lyric and feel.
I guess you’ve probably figured out I love this band. And it does amaze me that after so many years of putting out great music, it’s still an unknown commodity to a lot of people who should know better.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.