Los Lobos have never met a cover tune they didn’t like. Over the decades, the East L.A. veterans have tackled everyone from Ritchie Valens to The Grateful Dead to Disney classics. On their umpteenth album Native Sons, they stick closer to home, applying their magic touch to 13 classics by fellow Californians like Buffalo Springfield, The Beach Boys, WAR, Jackson Browne, The Blasters and more — along with one new original in the vintage-sounding title cut. What is not to like?
THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Native Sons was produced by Los Lobos in East Los Angeles and finds the band mapping their musical DNA as a kaleidoscopic selection of tribute songs from their homeland, ultimately creating a crucial snapshot of L.A.’s musical heritage. Having formed in 1973 and gotten their start playing spirited renditions of Mexican folk music at parties and in restaurants, Los Lobos are no strangers to reinterpretation (and if you’ve ever been to one of their legendary live shows, you already know that). These brothers have always held a deep appreciation for diverse music, and they love pulling out old gems and making them shine like new.
For all the trailblazing musical acts who’ve emerged from Los Angeles, very few embody the city’s wildly eclectic spirit more wholeheartedly than Los Lobos. Over the last five decades, the East L.A.-bred band has made an indelible mark on music history by exploring an enormous diversity of genres — rock ’n’ roll and R&B, surf music and soul, mariachi and música norteña, punk rock and country — and building a boldly unpredictable sound all their own.
In a nod to their neighborhood, Native Sons opens with the wide-eyed frenzy of Love Special Delivery by Thee Midniters, an East L.A. garage band and one of the first Chicano rock groups to ever score a major hit in the U.S. From there, it features favorites and deep cuts by other Los Angeles luminaries such as The Beach Boys, WAR, Buffalo Springfield, Jackson Browne and more. In a particularly meaningful moment for the band, Native Sons includes a fiery cover of Flat Top Joint by The Blasters, the seminal L.A. roots-rock band who helped pave the way for their signing to Slash Records in the early ’80s (and whom counted Steve Berlin as a member before his joining Los Lobos). The album’s title track is its sole original song, a loving homage to Los Angeles that sounds right at home amid so many classic tracks.
As with all of their catalogue, Native Sons reveals Los Lobos’ ability to merge genres and styles with both sophistication and playful spontaneity, an element that’s perfectly reflected in the album’s unbridled joy. “I played it for a friend and his first response was that it’s a party record — which sounds right to me,” says guitarist David Hidalgo. Beyond that undeniably feel-good quality, Native Sons essentially serves as a love letter to Los Angeles and the endless possibilities to be found when all boundaries are shattered. “I couldn’t say there’s a common thread for all these artists, but in a way that’s exactly what makes L.A. great,” says Berlin. “You’ve got R&B and punk rock and rock-and-roll and folk, and somehow it exists together in this one weird city that we all call home.”