Acclaimed as some of the best Mexican-American performers, Los Lobos - meaning 'The Wolves' in Spanish - have been playing a mix of rock n' roll, R&B and traditional Tejano music since the 70's. Fans will be pleased to know that their newest album, 'Gates of Gold', is proof that these six musicians are more than capable of bringing true-to-character quality and new ideas to their studio table.
Sax, flute, harmonica, mandolin, banjo and violin are just some of the weapons wielded by this band, fused together with classic rock and blues to create the body-shaking blend that is the unmistakeable Los Lobos sound.
The album opens with 'Made To Break Your Heart' - a steady blues track that laments love, and echoes the songs of the 70's. With a rich guitar-solo half-way through and an anthem-like chorus, this is a track that takes the listener straight to the heart of the Los Lobos matter.
The tempo is slowed somewhat by 'When We Were Free', starting with a jazzy ride cymbal, breaking into crashing cymbals, smooth guitars and keys. Passionate vocals show the soulful side of Los Lobos, the bass rhythm creating a thick backbone to a drifting, ambient track. 'Mis-Treater Boogie Blues' comes right after, an upbeat track that is rock n' roll to its bluesy, woman-woeful bones.
"I can't stand it," sings Louie Perez with grit, "The way she do." Strong guitar riffs power through the track, while unrelenting drums and bass provide delightfully thumping foundations.
'There I Go' is Santana-like in its slow, hazy tempo and percussion, the vocals joining the instruments, distorted yet crystal-cut. "Why do I/Go on endlessly?" Perez wonders over weaving guitars and smooth, head-bobbing drums.
Tearing right back into the heavier stuff is 'Too Small Heart', again reminscient of classic rock tunes of the past, with another break-down halfway through that lends to guitar slides and a heavy, undulating rhythm, winding down into atmospheric rock with guitar feedback (the kind that teases you into thinking there's another chorus lurking).
'Poquito Para Aqui' and 'La Tumba Sera El Final' are the Spanish tracks of the album, each one a warm nod to traditional Mexican music. Where 'Poquito Para Aqui' is upbeat and celebratory, 'La Tumba Sera El Final' has a slower, story-telling rhythm.
And what about the track, 'Gates of Gold'? Also with a story-telling rhythm, this is without a doubt a country track, with the lyrics about the love of land, of roaming and being free, and looking for home. Finger-picking banjo combines with a cool, cowboy-riding-across-the-desert beat, making 'Gates of Gold' a lovable track (despite the fade-out at the end).
'Gates of Gold' is an album that rolls the Woodstock-era rock, Mexican roots and American country of Los Lobos into one. Lovers of any and all of these genres - don't miss out.