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Los Lobos
Alternative Folk

Playing together for nearly 30 years, East L.A.'s Los Lobos have evolved into a band of American master musicians, adept at seemingly every aspect of the backbeat, from sea to shining sea. For their tenth album, the casually scintillating Good Morning Aztl n, Los Lobos consolidate the elder statesmen phase begun with 1999's This Time. Having sated themselves with the visionary production of groundbreakers such as Kiko and the Latin Playboys side project, the band just play, from the feral rock of "Done Gone Blue" to the Latin stomp of "Malaqu‚" to the sweet Curtis Mayfield-esque soul of "The Word." A band this confident simply doesn't need the studio trickery that Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake had made the hallmark Los Lobos sound through the '90s. So this time around, they've hooked up with rock vet John Leckie (Radiohead, XTC), who simply lets them be themselves. The result is a tapestry of American rock, in all its regional accents (including the playful Spanglish of "Luz de Mi Vida"). The barn-burning boogie favored by Cesar Rosas shows up on the title track; the foot-stomping cumbia visited in quotation marks by the Playboys is honestly assayed on "Maria Christina"; the brown-eyed soul of Chicano R&B is soulfully conveyed on "Hearts of Stone"; and horn-laden Memphis blues drip from "What in the World." But these are not genre exercises; the heartfelt vocals of Rosas and David Hidalgo and poignant lyrical portraits by Louie Perez mark each song as a new celebration of the band's incredibly long-lived creative chemistry. As much as the four-CD El Cancionero set, Good Morning Aztl n is a summation of Los Lobos' history: "Tony & Maria" even revisits the Mexican immigrant protagonists of How Will the Wolf Survive? Sadly -- perhaps predictably -- they're not faring that well in 21st-century America. Happily, and again perhaps predictably, you can't say the same for Los Lobos. The wolves survive, and thrive. Mark Schwartz

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