Bentley's Bandstand: Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust

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Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust, Shout! Factory Records

Los Lobos has always been about borders, and the way they have to be navigated. Whether you internalize them, cross them or even blow them apart, this East L.A. band has never been one to stay content with the status quo. That’s their strength: how they invented themselves in the 1970s as an acoustic aggregation playing the traditional music of their Mexican-American culture and then went on to tear it to pieces. It has been a transfixing trip listening to Lobos’ progression in becoming one of America’s greatest groups, and Tin Can Trust is another exciting step in an unstoppable journey.

This time out, the songs feel like the band’s borders are those of the mind and heart, and the way the music deals with the search for freedom is both chilling and cathartic. The secret in the sauce, as if the world didn’t already know, is David Hidalgo’s guitar. In the big man’s hands, those six strings sound like they’re ready to take on anything. They can go loud or soft, happy or sad, but always push in the direction of freedom of expression. Even better, his playing cannot be tagged. Blues-based to be sure, but the feeling is so far beyond that style it can only be called original. Hidalgo’s voice is also a wonder, capturing a brown-eyed essence of soul deeply moving.

Whether it’s “On Main Street,” “Jupiter on the Moon” or the title song, the Los Lobos live songbook takes on another fine chapter with these additions. Vocalist-guitarist Cesar Rosas is all over the new album too, with “Yo Canto,” “Mujer Ingrata” and an intriguing collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter on  “All My Bridges Burning.”

At this stage of their distinguished run, Los Lobos is still thriving on an embarrassment of riches, and always play with the fire of those for who holding back is simply not an option. Remembering the stops along the way of where the band has been can be breathtaking. Even better is trying to guess where Los Lobos will go. That’s the real thriller.

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.