Los Lobos

'ACL' sides

Phases and Stages

Los Lobos

Good Morning Aztlan (Mammoth) It's always exciting when an album's first few notes spell out that a band is back in the groove. In the case of Los Lobos, it's clambering bass, traffic-jam guitar fills, and the twin-drum churning of opener "Done Gone Blue." In an instant, any lingering memories of questionable Nineties output like 1996's colossal blunder Colossal Head or 1999's frigid This Time melt away like morning fog in the late-summer sun. Tragically, this return to form came at a terrible price: the 2001 abduction and murder of singer/guitarist Cesar Rosas' wife. Rosas memorializes her with a pair of kicky cumbias, "Luz de Mi Vida" and "Maria Christina," honoring her love of dancing while leaving the philosophical pondering to partner David Hidalgo. There's plenty of that, a mosaic of lives gone awry, dissipated dreams, and lost souls clinging to faith against backdrops reminiscent of B.B. King ("Hearts of Stone"), Santana ("The Word"), and Van Morrison ("The Big Ranch"). Cutting loose on rump-shaker "Get to This," taking it nice and easy on rockabilly chorale "What in the World," using their music as refuge, balm, and release valve, Los Lobos turn in their most evocative, consistently satisfying set since By the Light of the Moon. It's good to have East L.A. back in the neighborhood. (Saturday, Sept. 28, 3-4pm, Feature stage.)

****

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