Playing In Traffic Records

Los Lonely Boys’ Disappointing Reveal

Los Lonely Boys’ new album, Revelation, falls short of its titular promise. While it approaches the instrumental finesse of their 2004 eponymous debut, its lyricism and emotional intensity are diminished. The boys’ gumption and blues are missing—perhaps polished away by the outside lyricists credited for many of the tracks. Still, the album delivers enough of the band’s unique Tex-Mex moxie to warrant a turn or three. Its January release provides welcome warmth for those shoveling snow. Los Lonely Boys specialize in the soundtrack of summer.

“Blame It On Love,” the first track, announces the album’s theme. The introductory accordion flourish suggests conjunto roots, but the rest of the song sticks to pop at its most formulaic. The electric guitar tone is fluid and light and pleasant, but the lyrics are generic. “Give A Little More” launches with an uncharacteristic, driving reggae beat. Otherwise, it retraces the structure of “Diamonds”—a superior cut from their second album, Sacred (2006). This time though, Henry Garza’s guitar licks have lost some heat.

“It’s Just My Heart Talkin’” presents the boys at their loosest and lightest. Its humble instrumentation and vocals evoke a county fair in rural Texas. “There’s Always Tomorrow” is sing-a-long pop, featuring one of the trio’s catchiest hooks, shorn of any Latin roots.

The album’s middle offerings shine with instrumental achievement but suffer from the kitschiest lyrics of the band’s career. Weakest of all are the choruses, as in “So Sensual.” A rocker like “Can’t Slow Down,” with a fat, groovy guitar riff, could be a concert favorite with refashioned, tighter lyrics. Only “Don’t Walk Away” recaptures some of the bluesy bop of earlier band classics like “Dime Mi Amor” and “Real Emotions.”

Revelation’s finale, “Everything About You,” returns the band to the sweetheart balladry of their debut album. Like “It’s Just My Heart Talkin’,” the song rests on Henry Garza’s smooth, soulful vocals. It’s a tejano wedding song. “Everything About You” features the most memorable, albeit brief, guitar solo on the album. Let’s hope their next album showcases more of Henry Garza’s guitar glory. The band’s biggest hit so far, “Heaven,” mixes radio-friendly hooks and smokin’ lead work.

Revelation’s pop love song fixation is peculiar given the band’s roots. Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughn were once big influences on Los Lonely Boys. Willie Nelson, one of the Lone Star State’s folk heroes, helped the band record their debut album. The boys are natives of San Angelo, a West Central Texas city thick with rodeo and livestock culture. They earned their spurs touring in Nashville.

Revelation’s tone is stranger still given the band’s stated rationale for the record. Bassist Jojo Garza said, “We decided to call this album Revelation because we want to make music that reveals something to people about their lives and their world.”

The band’s world is still home to the blues. The Garzas’ native region in Texas endures one of the worst droughts on record. The cattle industry is just beginning to recover. Meanwhile, the state has added over one million residents since 2010. The Hispanic community is shaping politics more than ever. Texas is sure to be the epicenter of some of the century’s greatest political, environmental, and social trends. Revelation is mostly escapism though—music for a Memorial Day barbecue with margaritas, mesquite, and guacamole. Is that the limit of the Los Lonely Boys legacy?