Los Lonely Boys
1969 EP

3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

For those of you who continue to think I only give the thumbs up to "classic" rock artists instead of the young turks, this five song EP by Los Lonely Boys offers the best of both worlds - old school tunes done by a trio of musicians whose first album is still recent history.

Los Lonely Boys is comprised of the three Garza Brothers: Henry (guitar, vocals), Jo Jo (bass, vocals) and Ringo (drums, vocals, and yep, that's his name). The trio gigged in Nashville, creating their trademark "Texican Style" - a mixture of rock, blues, R & B and Tejano music. Their first single from their debut, "Heaven," was a catchy combination of lyrical Los Lobos-like licks and memorable hooks. "Heaven" garnered a Grammy in 2005 for Best Performance by a duo or group. The brothers didn't sit on their culos, producing two follow up discs, 2006's "Sacred" and 2008's "Forgiven," in rapid succession.

Having the luxury of their own label and the freedom to record what and when they want, the brothers Garza have released "1969," a tribute to their roots. True, the songs the Boys sing were all popular in 1969 - one was even written way back in 1958 - but the crisp production, coupled with their enthusiasm and "Texican Style" delivery will appeal to rockers of all ages.

Santana's first hit "Evil Ways," is recreated in low gear. It gets its Latin injection by way of the Pecos instead of L.A., but give the Boys credit for pulling it off with Henry's sizzling string bending subbing for the authoritative organ solo by Greg Rolie that embellished the original.

"Well All Right" was originally co-written by Buddy Holly in 1958, but was popularized in '69 by Blind Faith, one of the first "super groups" that featured Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton. The Boys' version is an off shoot of Blind Faith's loosey-goosey adaptation. The Garza Brothers' take lopes along at a smooth cha-cha clip assisted by Carmelo Torres on percussion, but dare I say it? Henry's wah-wah soloing is more interesting than Clapton's rave at the end of Blind Faith's version. Henry and Jo Jo's vocals are faithful to the Winwood/Clapton harmony work and Ringo pounds the drums with foot-tapping authority.

The brothers' remake of "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" is no match for the Beatles flippant version or Joe Cocker's throaty dissertation, but it won't make you want to jump through a window either. The Boys' version is grittier, flowing with inner city soul. Vocally, Henry is a dead ringer for Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, and I'm all for it, because Cesar's got one of those classic dirty baritones that's perfect for rock. Viva to Henry's wah-wah wildness; it helps shape the remake's funky feel, and Ringo one ups his Beatle namesake with a blitz of pervasive percussion.

I hold Tony Joe White's songs in a sacred place in my heart, so I held my breath when I noticed the Boys had taken on T.J.'s "Polk Salad Annie." I've heard a number of credible versions of Tony Joe's best known number, including an incendiary, jump suit-jerking version by Elvis. The King's Memphis' soulful version satisfied because he took the time to get to know Tony Joe and to get a feel for his music. The Boys' version is snakey, with a laid back beat that percolates, but also has plenty of Longhorn spice. It doesn't re-write history, but it's danceable and doesn't throw dirt on Tony Joe's reputation.

The same laid-back treatment sticks The Doors "Roadhouse Blues" in enough Rio Grande mud to make it monotonous. The Garza's substitute Ray Manzarek's honky tonk piano with Henry's wah-wah wonderful guitar licks, but there's no replacement for John Sebastian's bluesy harp which, coupled with the shuffling pace, leaves a hole in the arrangement. It's a nice try; "Roadhouse" is even enjoyable when the Boys lock into a groove, but this one should have been a little more up-tempo.

I haven't been following the trail of Los Lonely Boys since their award-worthy debut, but judging by their respect for the "classics" I should, and perhaps you should too. Los Lonely Boys know how to party like its 1969. Bueno.