Last week, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on earth, Los Lobos, released their most recent album. Of course when I call them the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, that’s just my way of saying that I have a great deal of appreciation for them.
Native Sons, their 18th album, is a collection of songs covering California artists who influenced their musical sensibilities early in their career. Over the last several months, Los Lobos released bits of the new album on YouTube. I liked what I heard, but was looking forward to putting the CD in my car stereo and taking it for a drive. Last Saturday I got to do that.
I can’t say that this is their best album, but it’s certainly well-made and it didn’t disappoint. Perhaps time will prove it to be a top three or four album of theirs for me. In recent years, artists I’ve appreciated for decades such as James McMurtry, Cornershop, and The Waterboys have delivered albums I’ve enjoyed, but consider subpar. Native Sons is far better than that.
The intentions behind this album can be felt immediately. The care that went into recording it is evident right away. Singer, David Hildalgo, who has a history of clunker vocals both live and on their recordings, is smooth on each of his vocal tracks. The recording fidelity is excellent — better than any of their previous albums. There’s ample space between the sounds, and the instrumentation and vocals are crisp and distinct.
Something the band attempted to do on this album was be true to the original song, but also put their own signature on each. That’s no easy task. Very often with covers, a band will try to duplicate the original song or take it in another direction altogether. Los Lobos walked a fine line and definitely achieved what they set out to do. Each track is true to the original, but there’s no doubt who’s performing it.
The song selection took me by surprise, but in a good way. Several of the songs are rock standards that I knew word-for-word, while others are songs I’m scarcely familiar with.
Bluebird (Buffalo Springfield) and Sail On Sailor (Beach Boys) are standouts for me. Again, true to the originals, but no doubt the guys from East LA are at the helm. Where Lovers Go (The Jaguars) takes me back to a simpler era of music — one that took place while I was still a toddler, and is probably my favorite song on the album — for now.
The musicianship, as always, is stellar. Hidalgo is one of the great guitar players nobody talks about. He demonstrates his usual outstanding playing throughout the album, but it’s kept a bit further back in the mix on most songs. However, on The World Is A Ghetto (WAR), Hidalgo’s guitar playing is prominent, precise, and clean. Cesar Rosas’ vocals and guitar work throughout the album are as good as ever. Louie Pérez sings, plays guitars, and adds some percussion.
Pérez, the original drummer for the band, gives up the kit on this album for David Hidalgo Jr. (Social Distortion) and Jason Lozano, who play superbly on their respective tracks. Steve Berlin (Saxophone) and Conrad Lozano (Bass) are like piecrust holding the band together. Their supporting roles are at the heart of the thing, and each gives the album a character that can’t come from anyone else.
After I listened to the album the second time, one line kept going through my head, over and over, from the movie Tender Mercies, starring Robert Duvall…
“Sing It The Way You Feel It…”
It’s evident on every track that the guys from East LA sang and played every song the way they felt it.
Footnote: I first wrote this for my Facebook page 2-weeks ago. I’ve since listened to the CD nearly a dozen times and compared each track to the original. For my money, I’ll take the Los Lobos cover over each of the originals, including the two Buffalo Springfield songs. Yes, I said it.
This has quickly become a top-3 album of theirs for me, just behind Kiko and The Town And The City. My standout tracks, as of this morning are, Farmer John (The Premiers) and For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield). At some point, I’m guessing every song on the CD will be my favorite, at least for a while.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 7
Mph Avg: 15.1
Seat Time: 11 hours 52 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on earth, Los Lobos. Enjoy…