Brotherly Love

It's hard not to root for Los Lonely Boys. The idea of three Chicano brothers from San Angelo building an audience by word of mouth and becoming one of the biggest bands in the country could temporarily restore your faith in the music industry.

The only snag in this feel-good story is the actual music the band creates. It's highly acomplished, to be sure, with expert guitar licks from brother Henry that suggest many nights of woodshedding to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana records. And this trio's voices blend in that alchemical sibling way that the Everlys, Isleys, Nevilles, McGarrigles, and Roches once did.

So what's the problem? Based on the evidence of Sacred, the group's second studio album, this group continues to churn out bland, cliché-ridden songs played in a highly conservative style that smells of pre-punk 1970s AOR. Their big influences are obvious - Vaughan, Santana, Allman Brothers, etc. - but they never twist or enhance those influences in intriguing ways. The closest thing to a creative risk on this album (and it's not very close) is the presence of conjunto accordion on the otherwise bluesy "Texican Style." Most of the songs are mid-tempo, mildly funky, stubbornly pleasant, and utterly forgettable. It may be an unfair comparison to make, but if you pit them against rock's last great Chicano hope, Los Lobos, the Wolves have displayed an infinitely wider range, a greater adventurous streak, and a far superior songwriting talent. With their emphasis on breezy good times ("Órale") and avowed disregard for wealth and celebrity ("My Way," "Diamonds"), Los Lonely Boys aim to be comforting, and in that sense they're successful. These are old sounds made by young guys, and nothing sends baby boomers racing to the record stores like that combination.


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