âFizzing with freshnessâ - BBC
âSunkissed psychedelia and irresistible hooks, with the bandâs soul, funk and blues influences thrust joyously to the fore... If you thrilled to the Black Keysâ El Camino, itâs time to meet your new favourite band â- Guardian
When they first began writing for their new album, Feral Roots, Rival Sons vocalist Jay Buchanan and guitarist Scott Holiday holed up for a week in a bare-bones shack just off the historic Natchez Trace. There, in the lavishly overgrown wilderness of the South Tennessee woods, they bore the genesis of Rival Sonsâ new full-length Album. For the Long Beach, California band's debut for Low Country Sound/Atlantic RecordsâFeral Roots echoes its origins with a sound and spirit both thrillingly untamed and wildly majestic.
For Rival Sons, the primal intensity of Feral Roots reflects a certain unrest at the heart of the album. âIâm working to reconcile my dirt-road DNA with our growing dependency on technology and the over-communication that comes with that.â says Buchanan, whose bandmates also include drummer Michael Miley and bassist Dave Beste. âWeâre surrounded by and are subordinate to our own creation; I looked to the undomesticated nature that lies dormant beneath our civil choreography, to what created us.â But with its nuanced explorations of both the wild and the domestic struggles of love and truth, Feral Roots ultimately argues for pushing beyond pure survival instincts and striving for something more exalted: to reclaim a long diluted genre with a galvanizing return to form.
Produced by Rival Sonsâ longtime collaborator, Dave Cobb (the Grammy Award-winner known for his work with such artists as Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, John Prine and Brandi Carlile), Feral Roots came to life at Nashvilleâs famed RCA Studio A and at the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. In a departure from the off-the-cuff creativity that sparked their previous albums, however, Rival Sons immersed themselves in a far more gradual and measured writing process for Feral Roots. âIn the past weâve made records where we come off the road and go right into the studio after the last gig, but for this one we allowed ourselves more time to focus,â says Holiday. Despite its sprawling arrangements and shapeshifting textures, the album still bears a brutal vitality deeply rooted in Rival Sonsâ on-spot recording approach.
For over seven months, the two bandleaders met up for several more writing sessions and also collaborated remotely, with Holiday based in Huntington Beach and Buchanan now living in Franklin, Tennessee. âThat was a huge part of the dialogue between Scott and I as we were writingâScott being right by the ocean, and me being out in the wilderness. It was a convergence, with our different environments and separate narratives intersecting then overlapping so kinetically.â Buchanan notes. Another major catalyst for introspection: Buchananâs move to a house in the countryside, a nearly-60-year-old home heâs renovating himself. âI grew up in the mountains and Iâve waited my whole adult life to get back to the woods,â he says. âIt was a cathartic return to form for me which absolutely instilled the whole return to form aspect of the record.â
The interplay between self-examination and raw outpouring builds a powerful tension on Feral Roots, one that propels Rival Sons far upstream from their contemporaries. Opening track âDo Your Worstâ comes on with a furious urgencyâall massive riffs and howling vocals, savage drumming and thudding bassâwith songs like âStood By Meâ delivering a juke-joint grind while âLook Awayâ unfolds in a scorching social commentary over Holidayâs iconic guitar anthem.
One of the most blistering moments on Feral Roots, âToo Badâ casts a wicked spell with its brooding rhythm and piercing lyrics. And on the albumâs title track, with its mesmeric guitar work and captivating vocal performance, Rival Sons channel a quiet wonder at the fragile grandeur of a world strongly felt but seldom seen. âEven peripherally, once youâve glanced at the mystic in the mundane, you canât unsee it.â Buchanan says.
On âAll Directions,â Feral Roots reaches a glorious fever pitch, a lyrically transcendent and dynamically epic journey equally driven by ethereal harmonies and scorching guitar riffs. With its unbridled energy and full-hearted gospel choir harmonies, âShooting Starsâ presents an even more pointedly hopeful meditation on creating your own strange magic, closing out Feral Roots with a defiant burst of joyful noise. âThe archetype of the suffering and self-destructive artist is so rampant and played out,â says Buchanan. âI used to live in a mansion there, until I burned it to the ground so I couldnât return. This song was written with those ashes.â
Throughout Feral Roots, Rival Sons continually play off the clashing elements of their musicality, a force thatâs long guided the band. Formed in Long Beach in 2008, Rival Sons put out their debut album Before the Fire in 2009 and made their breakthrough with 2011âs Pressure & Time then again in 2014 with Great Western Valkyrie, their entire catalog to date produced by Cobb. Over the years, the band has steadfastly forged their own singular path through the music industry, touring with legends like The Rolling Stones, Guns N Roses, Black Sabbath and AC/DC while introducing their thoughtfully hell-raising sensibilities into the rock & roll canon.
As Rival Sonsâ most artful and deliberately crafted album to date, Feral Roots finds the band pushing both buttons and boundaries to emerge with a greater focus and possession than ever before. âRockânâRoll is a keystone in our cultural identity and you can see, hear, and feel it gathering speed everywhere you look. Itâs about to break wide open.â says Holiday. With Feral Roots, Rival Sons have pushed the needle over the limit line in what is a clear call to arms and an unflinching return to form for both the genre and itâs fans worldwide.
Bad Bad Hats is an indie rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band consists of Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge, and Connor Davison. Named for a trouble-making character from the Madeline childrenâs books, Bad Bad Hats is defined by a balance of sweet and sour. Their music honors classic pop songwriting, with nods to nineties rock simplicity and pop-punk frivolity. Through it all, Alexanderâs unflinchingly sincere lyrics cut to the emotional heart of things.
Lightning Round, the bandâs second full-length album, finds Bad Bad Hats more confident and mature than ever. Producer and collaborator Brett Bullion (who also produced Psychic Reader) encouraged the group to record live in the studio, an approach which pushed the band outside of their comfort zone and lends many songs on the record a loose, organic feel. There is a vulnerability in this (fluttering tape loops, a few wrong notes) and it makes the music on the new album feel as honest and unpredictable as Alexanderâs lyrics. In this spontaneous environment, Hoge, who is known to play every instrument in the band, delivers some of his most inspired musical performances yet.
The Front Bottoms with Special Guest Oso Oso, Sydney Sprague - Presented by Opus One & PromoWest North Shore
This show has been rescheduled from May 2 and Oct 3, 2020 and June 4, 2021 - all tickets honored
Steve Forbert's folk-rock career has spanned four decades and counting. In June 1976, the twenty-one year old boarded a train in Meridian, Mississippi bound for New York City, then the epicenter of folk music. His combination of musicianship and authenticity demanded notice. In less than two years, he went from being a street performer and living at the YMCA to filling historic Greenwich Village clubs and signing a major label record contract with Nemperor Records.
From 1978 to 1982, Forbert released four acclaimed albums. Rolling Stone contributing editor David Wild wrote that "now or then, you would be hard-pressed to find a debut effort that was simultaneously as fresh and accomplished as Alive on Arrival . . . it was like a great first novel by a young author who somehow managed to split the difference between Mark Twain and J.D. Salinger.'
Forbert's second studio release, Jackrabbit Slim went RIAA Gold Certified with its Billboard #11 hit "Romeo's Tune". Recording success vaulted Steve onto a broader musical stage, touring the U.S. and Europe many times over. Forbert even appeared opposite Cyndi Lauper in her music video for "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.' His early accomplishments would be a career for most artists, but he continues to write, record, and perform to this day. His artistic pursuit has resulted in twenty studio albums and numerous live releases, compilations, and accolades. His songs have been recorded by Keith Urban, Rosanne Cash and Marty Stuart.
Any Old Time, a retrospective of the music of Meridian's Jimmie Rodgers, received a 2003 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album. As Rodgers' music has inspired Forbert, so has Forbert's music influenced a new generation of artists.
In 2017, twenty-one artists paid tribute to Steve by recording a compilation titled: An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert, further validating his artistic legacy. Forbert's 2018 memoir Big City Cat: My Life in Folk-Rock serves as a primer for young musicians setting out on their own journeys.
...His perspective on what life was like for a 20-something recently arrived in NYC is sharp. Forbert offers a sparkling observation about the pull of music as excellent as any I have seen,' said Entertainment Today.
Forbert's latest studio album release The Magic Tree serves as sound track to his memoir. The album rings with the verve and vitality that Forbert's fans have always come to expect. The Magic Tree underscores what revered critic the late Paul Nelson wrote about Forbert in Rolling Stone almost 40 years ago 'Nothing, nothing in this world, is going to stop Steve Forbert, and on that I'll bet anything you'd care to wager.'
Anyone who reviews Steve's catalogue of music can see the writer in the musician. His songs are as literary as they are musically vibrant. Brutally honest lyrics delivered with sensitivity create an uncommon trust with his listeners. Excelling in every decade of his career, Forbert exemplifies the best of the troubadour tradition.
(Late Show) Flashpoint Run with Special Guest Lifeguard
Ruminating on the risks of taking things for granted in our daily lives, Ian Felice, the lead singer/songwriter of The Felice Brothers, expresses how meaningful the experience of playing music with his band has been after long months of social distancing. In From Dreams to Dust, their eighth and most recent studio album, out September 17th on Yep Roc Records, the band's exuberance to be together doing what they do so well is palpable. Characteristic of The Felice Brothers, the new tracks are a mixture of somber tunes with ones that are musically upbeat, all the while carrying messages that beg listeners to think deeply about the environment, humanity, legacy, and death. Many of the songs depict the passage of time, nostalgia, transience and getting older. For songwriter Ian Felice, there must also always be a current of hope in the music.
"I want for my music to do what the best music in my life has done for me," explains Ian. "I want to do that for other peopleâto help them think through hard times or think through how to communicate something they didn't know how to; to just make them happy. This may sound ironic, because my music is kind of dark sometimes, but the music I love best is just the most hopeful music like Pete Seeger singing about humanity getting along or Michael Hurley music that connects to some childlike simplicity that makes you feel light and happy. Music is a medicine. It can make our time on the planet a little more enjoyable."
The Felice Brothers, Ian (guitar and lead vocals) and James (multi-instrumentalist and vocals), hail from the Catskills, NY, where their early songs echoed off subway walls and kept company with travelers and vagrants. Their current lineup, with the addition of bassist and inaugural female Felice member Jesske Hume (Conor Oberst, Jade Bird) and drummer Will Lawrence (also a singer/songwriter) as their rhythm section, promises to be the best yet.
Nathaniel Walcott (trumpet) and Mike Mogis (pedal steel player) act as an accompaniment throughout the tracks, the latter of whom mixed From Dreams to Dust, which was produced by The Felice Brothers.
A folk-Americana-rock-country band with deep roots in varied genres, The Felice Brothers are what Rolling Stone lauds as "musician's musicians" and poets. Indeed, Ian has proven his pedigree as a poet with the publication of his limited-edition collection of poetry Hotel Swampland (2017).
They are known by fans for their catchy tunes like "Frankie's Gun," "Love Me Tenderly," "Cherry Licorice," and "Lion" and, more recently, 2019's "Undress" and "Special Announcement," but they offer much more than a great sound. Seamlessly interweaving bizarre catalogues of literary and pop-culture references with vivid portrayals of life and its kaleidoscope of tragedies and hopes, their lyrics and dazzling musical accompaniment not only sound good but demand introspection. Some of the themes that run through their music, as Ian states, "are perennial" and are centered around "searching for something or transformation." Others explore "characters trying to achieve some ideal they're striving for" or who are "being weighed down by reality."
Their latest in this tradition is their opening song, "Jazz on the Autobahn," a piece marked by its explosive sounds that invite us to join in the merriment of the maypole in the midst of uncertain futures. The song displays Ian's talent for switching from his smooth narrative voice to singing in his vintage, rich tone. Jesske's adept bass strumming, accompanied by Will's rhythmic drumming, act as a pulse, pleasantly complemented by James's melody on the piano. Together, along with the wailing trumpet, The Felice Brothers are mesmerizing. The band's cohesiveness in this opener and the brilliant synthesis and harmonizing of voices and instruments reflects the members' varied talents as well as their unified vision.
Detailing the story of Helen and The Sheriff who are driving together in a "doomed Corvette," "Jazz on the Autobahn," Ian explains, is about a couple of people who have "left behind their entire lives in search of something but are haunted by a feeling of looming catastrophe, and the two souls are adrift in uncertain times, trying to understand their own feelings, hopes, and desires."
As he has throughout his career with The Felice Brothers, Ian harnesses the dissonance of life to produce music that is at once musically inspiring and conceptually sophisticated. He works through the difficult realities of life as a way to, at least temporarily, end at a more life-affirming state.
"I just have strange emotions and things I don't understand. Sometimes when I write, it helps me work through the ways I feel," Ian explains. "I want it to be about art." These two mutually informing needs, that of wrestling with the emotional and psychiatric impacts of living in a world saturated with tornadoes, mushroom clouds, chemical rain, poisoned bird baths, worsening markets, greed, earthquakes, and war, and creating artistic productions that offer us what Ian calls "digestive realities," define two notable aesthetic principles that characterize Ian's songs and all of the tracks on From Dreams to Dust.
Ian wants his songs to do for others what his favorite songs do for him, which is to help listeners get through hard times. "The greatest thing," he states, "would be for people to be inspired by our music in a positive way." But for Ian, doing so involves not turning away from adversities but rather requires facing harsh truths for the purpose of nourishing us with these digestive realities that might help us work productively through otherwise demoralizing and debilitating prospects. Thus, as the speaker of "To-Do List" writes a plan, or perhaps a bucket list, as "the plague goes by," the speaker resolves to "Befriend an Unfortunate lunatic" and "Bring Flowers to the Sick" as well as absorb the light from the "amorous rays" of the sun.
The songs in From Dreams to Dust ask us to pay close attention to Ian's narrative techniques and literary devices, transforming his songs into poetry and short stories. "Ian is so good about taking poetry, novels, folk art, and a huge wealth of artistic knowledge and metabolizing those things into music that is never academic or stilted but feels so alive," explains James on his brother's literary prowess.
Indeed, in "Valium," Ian transforms the mundane life of the speaker, whose "touch and go" happiness is as fleeting and insubstantial as the channel surfing he does in a "motel on the border of Utah and Colorado," into a commentary on "the national consciousness." Ian conveys what he refers to as "the tragic idealization of the American west" that the US public uncritically consumes through John Wayne and Annie Oakley clips, and which elide the violence of colonial legacies. With a little help from the rest of the band's incantations and the mournful sound of the pedal steel guitar, a feature that permeates the album and gives it a beautifully haunting quality that leaves one wanting to join in with howls, the song ultimately revives the souls of those former inhabitants of Colorado and Utah in the midst of the speaker's preoccupation with his own "warmly beating heart."
James too shines on From Dreams to Dust with "All the Way Down," a song that focuses on artificial intelligence and, as he puts it, the transformation "from dust (or starlight) into something that can dream" and "Silverfish," a piece that lists the external forces encroaching upon the speaker's physical and social space, displacing him and unraveling his life as he helplessly repeats "I gotta to do something."
While the band has recorded previous albums in studios, they also have a tradition of leaving the comforts (and restrictions) of the studio to record their music in unconventional spaces. Their first album was recorded in a leaking old theater in New York. This was the place where James learned to record. "It was awesome," says James, adding that the band recorded the self-titled album The Felice Brothers in an old chicken coop. If we take James' words from "Blow Him Apart," James also "learned to sing / In a chicken coop," a fact that speaks to The Felice Brothers' embrace of their working-class roots and their commitment to remain raw, to merge the sacred simplicity of their recording process with the sophistication of their lyrics and musical sound. As Rolling Stone notes, "the band has, from its inception, prioritized self-definition" and, I would add, creative freedom.
"I'd rather be in a space where there is no time limit and if you break anything, it's no big deal," says James, whose tenure with The Felice Brothers has included many raucous performances. In the earlier years, until such an approach led to much broken equipment, The Felice Brothers invited audiences to join them onstage, and they have been known to have fans break out into impromptu performances in their live shows. These different manifestations of The Felice Brothers say as much about their humility as artists as it does their artistic principles.
"I want to continue recording in strange places that feel like home, that feel like ourselves," continues James. The Felice Brothers have found their new recording home in an 1873 church that Ian renovated. Though the church had fallen into disrepair, Ian admits it was always his dream to use it. Feeling lucky to have acquired the property, Ian spent a few months renovating the approximately 30Ã40, one-room church. He put in new flooring, and The Felice Brothers would go on to record From Dreams to Dust in this new, old, and now hallowed, place. Considering the band's history in unconventional spaces and the pandemic they have weathered apart, the renovated church represents Ian's, and The Felice Brothers', enduring commitment to friendship and music and to finding beauty, and hope, in unexpected places.
The restored church, like From Dreams to Dust, also reflects the Felice Brother's unrelenting efforts to continue rebuilding in the wake of life's decomposing cycles. Though perennially conscious of life's treachery and our troubling ecologies, which we seem, as James remarks, "so ill-fitted to interact with," The Felice Brothers constantly remind us that life's mysteries are still worth pondering and, in so doing, offer us the blueprint for helping rebuild our lives after they collapse. As James sings in "All the Way Down," whether we are "the union / Of an ape in an Apron/And a break in the clouds" or "nothing but starlight / All the way down," we are alive and inhabiting this strange space together. Ian's poetic final song, "We Shall Live Again," assures us that even "in this life where any joyful thing / is paid two fold in suffering / we shall live again." The phrase Dreams to Dust, then, may represent the deterioration of some hopes such as in the case of the two characters in "Inferno" who are consumed by the fires in a "fevered dream" and decaying lives as "some die on the steppes of frozen wasteland" while yet others "OD on the roads to Graceland" in "We Shall Live Again," but, Dreams to Dust also offers us the sacred ashes with which we might enrich the earth by scattering. That is, the Felice Brothers bequeath us the matter with which we might cultivate life and teach us the words, like chants, that offer the power to heal.
Now twenty-five years into his storied career, Cleaves' songwriting has never been more potent than on his new album Ghost on the Car Radio, out June 23.
The characters in Slaid Cleaves' songs live in unglamorous reality. They work dead-end jobs, they run out of money, they grow old, they hold on to each other (or not), and they die. With an eye for the beauty in everyday life, he tells their stories, bringing a bit of empathy to their uncaring world.
On "Take Home Pay," co-written with longtime friend Rod Picott, Cleaves sings from the perspective of an aging manual laborer, fighting looming regret and sadness with stubborn resiliency (and opioid use).
"As befits the times we live in, there's a heavy dose of disappointment and disillusion here," he says. But somehow, through the worst of it, optimism remains, as if to say, "Yeah, things are pretty bad out there. But there's still some good stuff if you know where to look."
One place his characters find solace is with each other. Traditional love songs are not often found on a Slaid Cleaves record. Here he approaches the subject less as a romantic gesture, and more as a world-weary appreciation of the one who's seen you through thick and thin, as in the song "So Good to Me."
Described as "terse, clear and heartfelt" (NPR Fresh Air), his songs speak to timeless truths. "I'm not an innovator. I'm more of a keeper of the flame," he says.
"Songs are so accessible. You don't need an education to fully appreciate them, you don't need a lot of leisure time to spend on them, you don't need to learn the language of song. We seem to be born with it," Cleaves explains. "With no preparation at all, they can bring you to tears in a matter of seconds. I remember being three or four and getting a lump in my throat when I heard Hank Williams sing."
Now in his fifties, Cleaves admits that it's sometimes hard to stay inspired. "I do become jaded," he says. "I wonder that, at this point in my career, I've had no real national success. No impact on the culture, as my heroes had. The music that I love just doesn't seem relevant to mainstream culture. But then, I have no interest in what mainstream culture offers either."
"But those feelings are always quickly overcome by gratitude," he explains. "I'm making a living as a musician, and making a meaningful connection with people - what could be better than that?"
Ghost on the Car Radio is Cleaves' first release since 2013's Still Fighting the War, which was praised as "one of the year's best albums" by American Songwriter and "carefully craftedâ¦songs about the struggles of the heart in hard times" by the Wall Street Journal. The New York Daily News called his music "a treasure hidden in plain sight," while the Austin Chronicle declared, "there are few contemporaries that compare. He's become a master craftsman on the order of Guy Clark and John Prine."
J.I. Young and Restless Tour - Presented by Opus One & PromoWest North Shore
The eighth full-length from singer/songwriter Jason Eady, To The Passage Of Time first took shape in
a frenetic burst of creativity back in the doldrums of quarantine. Over the course of a three-day
period last August, the Fort Worth, Texas-based musician wrote more than half of the album,
locking himself in his bedroom and emerging only when he felt completely burnt out. âI went in
thinking I was going to write just one songâbut then the songs kept coming, and I didnât want to
break the spell,â he recalls. âIâd go to sleep with the guitar by the bed, pick it back up when I woke
up the next morning, and do it all again. Iâd never really experienced anything like that before.â
With its nuanced exploration of aging and loss and the fragility of life, To The Passage Of Time arrives
as the Mississippi-bred artistâs most lyrically complex and compelling work to date. As Eady reveals,
the albumâs understated power stems in part from the intentionality of the recording process, which
involved enlisting Band of Heathensâ Gordy Quist as producer and gathering many of Eadyâs
favorite musicians heâs played with over the years (including Noah Jeffries on mandolin and fiddle,
Mark Williams on upright bass and cello, and Geoff Queen on Dobro, pedal steel, and lap steel). âI
really love egoless playersâpeople who know how to serve the song,â notes Eady, who recorded at
The Finishing School in Austin and made ample use of the studioâs goldmine of vintage gear. âWe
started every song with just me on guitar, and if someone felt like they had a part to add, they had to
come forward and say what they heard there. Everything was built from the ground up, and because
of that thereâs no fillerânobody playing to show off or take up space.â
On the albumâs exquisite centerpiece âFrench Summer Sunââa devastating epic astoundingly
captured in the very first takeâEady shares one of his most riveting pieces of storytelling yet. âMy
grandfather fought at Battle of Anzio in Italy in World War II, and a few years ago on tour I went to
visit the beach where the battle took place,â says Eady. âI was struck by how small the beach wasâI
realized that if my grandfather had made one wrong move he wouldâve been killed, and I wouldnât
be standing there thinking those thoughts. I ended up writing this song about how when someone
dies in war, it isnât just killing that person: itâs killing the generations of people who would have
come from them.â Building to a shattering plot twist in its final moments, âFrench Summer Sunâ
drifts between its somberly sung chorus and spoken-word verses, attaining an unlikely transcendence
as Eady sheds equally poignant light on the horror of war and the ephemeral beauty of everyday
Looking back on the making of To The Passage Of Time, Eady points to such unexpected moments as
the recording of the album-opening âNothing On You.â âApart from my guitar, the only two
instruments on that song are cello and steel guitarâwhich is a combination Iâd never heard before,
and gave it a whole new character that took my breath away,â he says. But for the most part, Eady
achieved a rare outcome in the albumâs production: a direct expression of his deep-rooted and
highly specific vision. âI write my songs on acoustic guitar, so sometimes in the studio things take
different turns and end up not really matching with what you had in your head,â says Eady. âBut
because of the approach we took with this album, thereâs hardly anything that came out different
from what Iâd envisioned. This is 100 percent the album I hoped I would make.â
After working together on previous projects âHayley and Joshâ formed in Pittsburgh PA in the Autumn of 2019 when the duo began recording their debut album. Hayley being âthe voiceâ and Josh being âthe musicâ the couple have found a unique artistic chemistry and the album delivers a message of love, positivity, environmental stewardship, political revolution, and self empowerment
Another Cheetah / Mick Francis & The New Romantics / Brave New World
Los Lobos is unlike any other band, so itâs not surprising that the groupâs first-ever Christmas album â LlegÃ³ Navidad â would break the holiday-album mold too.
Instead of relying on over-played seasonal standards for its latest album, the band, along with some friends, started out by researching and collecting nearly 150 different traditional (and not-so-traditional) Christmas songs from North, Central and South America. After narrowing down the list to 11 songs â and then adding their own original to the mix â David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin recorded them on their home turf in East Los Angeles.
The band set out to sing new life into these old songs and make the kind of fresh and vital holiday album that only Los Lobos could make. Youâve probably never heard 10 of the songs (âArbolito de Navidadâ and âRegalo de Reyesâ); one youâve absolutely heard (âFeliz Navidadâ); and one youâve definitely never heard (âChristmas And Youâ) â which was written especially for the album.
LlegÃ³ Navidad opens with Rosas singing âLa Ramaâ (the branch), a lively song played in the regional folk style known as son jarocho, which is popular in the Veracruz region of Mexico. La Rama is also the name of the traditional Mexican holiday custom where the community adorns branches from a tree and displays them in a nightly procession through the neighborhood.
Hidalgo sings lead on âChristmas Time In Texas,â a track made popular by Tex-Mex legend Freddy Fender. Lozanoâs distorted upright bass keeps time with his son Jason Lozano on drums, who makes special guest appearance on the song.
âDÃ³nde EstÃ¡ Santa Clausâ fires on all cylinders like a lowered Chevy Impala cruising Whittier Boulevard on the weekend. Berlinâs warm Vox Continental organ and Perezâs potent drumming create a head-nodding groove thatâs miles away from the 1958 original, which was a novelty hit for 12-year-old singer Augie Rios. His version featured a full orchestra and poppy background vocals.
One of the interesting things about LlegÃ³ Navidad is that the rancheras, salsas and son jarochos on the album would sound right at home on the groupâs 1978 debut, Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles. Itâs a rare full-circle moment for the GrammyÂ®-winning band, which has prided itself on never covering the same ground twice while making music for nearly 50 years.
Their journey began in 1973, when Hidalgo (vocals, guitar, and pretty much anything with strings), Perez (drums, vocals, guitar), Rosas (vocals, guitar), and Lozano (bass, vocals, guitarrÃ³n) earned their stripes playing revved-up versions of Mexican folk music in restaurants and at parties. The band evolved in the 1980s as it tapped into L.A.âs burgeoning punk and college rock scenes. They were soon sharing bills with bands like the Circle Jerks, Public Image Ltd. and the Blasters, whose saxophonist, Steve Berlin, would eventually leave the group to join Los Lobos in 1984.
Early on, Los Lobos enjoyed critical success, winning the GrammyÂ® for Best Mexican-American Performance for âAnselmaâ from its 1983 EP â¦And a Time to Dance. A year later, the group released its full-length, major-label debut, How Will the Wolf Survive? Co-produced by Berlin and T Bone Burnett, the album was a college rock sensation that helped Los Lobos tie with Bruce Springsteen as Rolling Stoneâs Artist of the Year.
A major turning point came in 1987 with the release of the Ritchie Valens biopic, La Bamba. The quintetâs cover of Valensâ signature song topped the charts in the U.S. and the U.K. Rather than capitalize on that massive commercial success, Los Lobos instead chose to record La Pistola y El CorazÃ³n, a tribute to Tejano and Mariachi music that won the 1989 GrammyÂ® for Best Mexican-American Performance.
That kind of sharp artistic turn has become Los Lobosâ trademark, serving to both fuel the bandâs creativity and keep its fans engaged. In 1992, that willingness to defy expectations led them to record Kiko, an adventurous album produced by Mitchell Froom thatâs considered by many to be one the bandâs very best.
Since then, Los Lobos has continued to deliver daring and diverse albums such as Colossal Head (1996), Good Morning AztlÃ¡n (2002), The Town and the City (2006), Tin Can Trust (2010) and Gates of Gold (2015). On top of that, the bandâs live shows never disappoint, as documented on the recent concert recordings Live at the Fillmore (2005) and Disconnected in New York City (2013). Through the years, theyâve managed to keep things interesting with unexpected side trips like an album of Disney songs in 2009, along with countless contributions to tribute albums and film soundtracks. One of those â âMariachi Suiteâ from the 1995 film Desperado Â¬â earned the band a GrammyÂ® for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
Los Lobos has sold millions of records, won prestigious awards and made fans around the world. But perhaps its most lasting impact will be how well its music embodies the idea of America as a cultural melting pot. In it, styles like son jarocho, norteÃ±o, Tejano, folk, country, doo-wop, soul, R&B, rock ânâ roll and punk all come together to create a new sound thatâs greater than the sum of its parts.