Los Lobos, that quintessential East L.A. band, celebrates their 30th year together with their new release The Ride. Not your typical Los Lobos album, this is a mix of new material and previously released songs re-recorded with a slew of guest vocalists including Bobby Womack, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Mavis Staples, Ruben Blades, and Richard Thompson to name a few. Sometimes the disc plays like more of a showcase, with Los Lobos serving as the backup band for the guests, many of whom are major musical heroes of theirs.

The band, which still includes all original members (David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez, Steve Berlin, and Conrad Lozano), is known for their mix of Latin grooves, blues, roots rock, and soul. They usually offer a unique mix on their albums, often blending traditional Mexican ballads played acoustically with smoky electric blues/rock numbers. This CD has none of the quieter traditional songs for a change, instead opening with the infectious groove of "La Venganza de Los Pelados" which sounds like a Latin dance party thrown by Cafe Tacuba. Always a delight to hear, David Hidalgo's rich vocals deliver the lovely slower ballad "Rita."

Bobby Womack lays down his soulful vocals for "Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street," one of the album's standout tracks. Other highlights include the slightly comical "Kitate" featuring gritty Tom Waits and sassy Martha Gonzalez on vocals, and the memorable "Somewhere in Time" sung by Dave Alvin and Hidalgo. These songs are reminiscent of LL's landmark 1992 release Kiko.

Elvis Costello does a beautiful rendition of "Matter of Time," which is simplistic yet quite moving, with wonderful piano accompaniment by Garth Hudson of The Band. Mavis Staples' gospel vocals make "Someday" a soul food picnic. "Hurry Tomorrow" is a hard rocker penned by Cesar Rosas and long time Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.

This is a strong effort with no weak tracks at all, a release that pays tribute to the band's musical roots and also looks to the future. Los Lobos has a unique place in American music--their longevity alone makes them stand out, and the way they successfully incorporate their Mexican musical heritage with so many other pop and rock styles makes them appealing to Latinos, rockers, and hippies alike. This album has something for everyone.

Susan J. Weiand
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 6/2/04]

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