Los Lonely Boys

Two years ago, Los Lonely Boys were described in these pages as young phenoms whose Spanglish roadhouse blues-rock was taking them to the big leagues on a fast track. We were right. Since then the Garza brothers -- singer-guitarist Henry, singer-bassist JoJo and drummer-singer Ringo -- have progressed rapidly from an opening act in small Texas clubs to a national headliner and a co-star at Farm Aid. If Texas music has a manager -- a field general, if you will -- that man would be Willie Nelson, and the red-haired one calls them "his favorite local band," praise from the top that Or Music was wise enough to sticker this disk with.

This is being billed as LLB's debut, though it's more of a mulligan. Sometime about five years ago a disk was cut in Atlanta and subsequently swept aside. Hard to blame 'em for wanting to ignore an album made when the oldest brother wasn't yet out of his teens, but still.

It would be more of a big deal if they hadn't gotten this album so right. Those accustomed to their live shows will find a thicker sound on the disc -- Reese Wynans (ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan) chunks up the tone nicely, while percussionist Diego Simmons funks up the beats on six tunes. Nelson and producer John Porter also chime in on acoustic guitars on two of the cuts.

The first four tracks are all great. The bluesy opener, "Señorita," on which Henry does his wa-wa pedal proud, is followed by the old familiar Ritchie Valens-like "Heaven," on which the blood harmonies truly soar and the melody proves difficult to shake. Next up is the Stevie Ray-style barn burner "Crazy Dream" (with JoJo singing lead), while a Tejano-soul influence dominates on "Dime Amor." Later on the album, the brothers cook up an Abraxas-style caldo on the jazzy nine-minute "Onda," a taste of greater musical sophistication that one hopes is the shape of things to come.

Album closer "La Contestación" is the weak link -- it sounds like Bryan Adams sung in Spanish, and the Canadian one's style of lukewarm ballad doesn't do any better in translation than it does in the clipped tones of the Frozen North.

Still, there's nothing here to make us question what we wrote back in 2001, or anything we wrote a year later when we called them the future of Texas roots rock. Tres Hombres the album is a relic now, but these three dudes are today's reality.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax