Los Lobos - Tin Can Trust Album Review
For many people in Britain their abiding memory of LA Chicano outfit Los Lobos will be an effervescent cover version of Ricky Valen's classic 'La Bamba', released way back in 1987. Taken from the film soundtrack of the same name which topped the American album charts, ostensibly a comfortable living then beckoned for the group, dressed up in mariacahi tat whilst crooning to drunken Las Vegas gamblers, as indeed the release prior to Tin Can Trust suggested. Few artists can survive recording an album of Disney cover versions with their dignity in place, but as Los Lobos have consistently proven, they are far from as the title of their debut album put it Just another band from East LA'.
Formed in the mid-70's and boasting a stable line up for almost the last twenty years, Los Lobos first came to prominence with 1984's critically adored major label debut Will The Wolf Survive. After their treatment of Valens standard - the doomed teen heartthrob himself one of the first hispanic pop stars - the quartet went on to tour with the likes of U2 and in 1995 composed the score for the Antonio Banderas flick Desperado.
Triple Grammy winners or not however, it's still true to say on this side of the pond you're most likely to hear them blaring out of some 'Fun' pub at Christmas party time, but before you even mention the words 'Andy' or 'Kershaw', along comes Tin Can Trust, a release which will allow you to familiarise yourself with the Los Lobos of the twenty first century without the need for facial hair.
Their first album of original material since since 2006's The Town And The City, key protagonists Louie Perez and David Hidalgo are again in the songwriting chair, and for the uninitiated, what they produce will be little short of a revelation. Some expectations are met: Tapas bar owners across the country will be reassured to hear both Yo Canto and Mujer Ingrata, each with its own persuasive variations on the traditional sounds which have been crossing the border from Mexico into California since the nineteenth century.
Were this all there were to it I'd simply recommend you take in the Mariachi El Bronx album, but this tacit acknowledgement of the band's cultural heritage is only a relatively minor dimension of Tin Can Trust. It's what goes on elsewhere that provides the welcome surprise, songs that are a composite of blues, jazz, folk and vintage rock and roll which reflects influences such as The Allman Brothers and - perhaps less surprisingly - Carlos Santana.
If Opener Burn It Down just smoulders, what succeeds it brings to mind the best roadhouse band you might ever hear, Hidalgo providing the smoky vocal resonance to On Main Street, whilst the title track has a similar brooding sense of back country sweat and twelve bar sunsets. Less calculated is instrumental Do The Murray, a crepuscular salute to the youthful Santana that thrilled Woodstock as opposed to the one which these days is producing music MOR to the edge of parody.
For once here Perez is relieved of his duties as muse-in-chief, but the results are mixed; whilst Cesar Rosas turn on All My Bridges Are Burning fails to ever truly convince, a stellar cover version of the Grateful Dead's West LA Fadeaway has the potential to introduce Jerry Garcia to a whole new generation of acolytes. Steeped in reverence, the urbane fretwork of Closer 27 Spanishes then transports listeners from the West Coast to Memphis, a reminder of the blues' original metamorphosis into what we now know as rock and roll at Sam Phillips now legendary Sun Studio.
Cards on the table - this is music so adult that it drives a Volvo and refuses to even acknowledge Facebook, but that's arguably part of its intrinsic appeal, as is its lack of cliches: anyone expecting a guest appearance from Ricky Martin is going to be disappointed. As unconventional as it is, I can guarantee that the unprejudiced ear is still highly likely to find something to enjoy on Tin Can Trust.