Over thirty years have passed since a group of rather unassuming but extremely talented musicians rose out of East Los Angeles to teach the the United States about the synthesis of culture, rhythm, tradition, and musicality. First and foremost the the band Los Lobos are musicians of the first order. David Hildago, the lead guitarist, has not met an instrument he can not play better than anyone, from the traditional guitars of the mariachi to the squeeze box of tejano music to the best lead rock guitar lines anyone has put forth. Cesar Ruiz has the tenor voice instrument that can recall the romance and heartbreak of the best cancion singer, or the growly power of American blues or rockabilly, with equal ease. Conrad Lozano, Louis Perez, and Steve Berlin bring the sound permanent depth of soul with equal virtuosity on the synthesizer, guitar, drum, and saxophone. It has come together for thirty years in such a wide expanse of musical recording that most casual listeners are unsure they are listening to the same band.
Los Lobos started as the neighborhood wedding band, but word spread fast that these kids could really play, and it was not long before they were playing progressive venues on the LA music scene in the early 1980’s with other relatively radical performers, such as Dwight Yoakam, exploring what has become known as roots rock. The album How Will The Wolf Survive? brought them to national prominence and critical acclaim in 1984, with its unique blend of roots rock, Mexican traditionalism , and sophisticated performance and lyrics. They achieved commercial success with La Bamba in 1987 and a new appreciation of hispanic influences in the music of Americas began to gain traction. Throughout they never left traditional sounds behind recording fresh and tight performances of traditional rancheras, cumbias, and nortenos that reminded audiences of the enormous depth of Latin musical culture. In 1991 Kiko shifted the direction of the music again to sophisticated rhythm and jazz influences, country, blues and rock, the essential panorama of the modern American musical experience. Albums have followed, equally as enthralling, but Kiko stands as an exemplary cross section of the American voice that will likely remain unequalled.
The wedding band boys from LA are now relatively elder musical statesmen, but each live performance continues to remind you that you are listening to performers for the ages. Take the time to listen to all they have to offer, and if you love great music as I do, you will likely find no time better spent.