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Tim Finn Listens to Los Lobos Native Sons

Tim Finn Listens to Los Lobos Native Sons

Posted by Timothy Finn (For over 20 years Tim was the Music Editor for the Kansas City Star and currently contributes to In Kansas City magazine and 90.9 the Bridge.) on 7th Sep 2021

LOS LOBOS || Native Sons

This collection of covers is a heartfelt tribute to their native East Los Angeles/Southern Cal. Most of these songs were written and recorded before Los Lobos became a formal band. In other words, they are part of the landscape in which everyone grew up, absorbing music and evolving into a successful international touring band.

The record's point is made immediately and emphatically. The cover of “Love Special Delivery” is a fantastic horn-fed '60s throwback, a brassy anthem quaking with brassy fanfares, Hammond B3 riffs, a hop-scotching bassline and a skronky guitar lead that leaves a cloud of diesel smoke in its wake. The song was initially recorded in 1966 by the Chicano/East L.A. band Thee Midniters, and the men of Los Lobos give it the respect and unbridled revival it deserves.

The homage to their heritage does not end there. The hyper-ebullient “Los Chucos Suaves,” propelled by deep-dish guitar and baritone-sax grooves, honors the “father of Chicano music,” Lalo Guerro. The low-tempo ballad “Dichoso” pays respect to Latin-jazz great Willie “Bobo” Correa. And the album's closer, the yearning instrumental “Where Lovers Go,” renews the spirit of the woefully overlooked Jaguars.

“Native Sons” honors other SoCal artists. The cover of Jackson Browne's “Jamaica Say You Will” veers little, if at all, from the original but manages to bear Los Lobos' inimitable vocal trademarks. Other tracks give due to the Beach Boys (“Sail on Sailor”), Buffalo Springfield (“For What It's Worth”), Lobos' contemporaries the Blasters (a wide-grin rendition of “Flat Top Buzz”) and War (a jazzed-up version of “The World is a Ghetto”).

Los Lobos is not new to this cover-album business. The recording that catapulted the band into the mainstream was the late-1980s soundtrack to the Richie Valens biopic “La Bamba,” which included a cover of the title track, still one of Los Lobos' biggest hits. In at least one way, “Native Son” picks up where that project left off: It's filled with the sounds of a band reconnecting to the artists and music that informed and inspired it.