Gates of Gold
The Low Spark of 40,000 Headmen Crossing the Tex-Mex Border
Los Lobos? Aha – La Bamba? THAT Los Lobos? Before I received this album that was pretty much all I knew about the band; so I sadly wasn’t prepared for what Gates of Gold had to offer.
After about two minutes of the opening track Made To Break Your Heart I had to check the album sleeve to confirm I was listening to the East LA Grammy winners and not Stevie Winwood; or possibly Eric Clapton.
Seriously; the first two songs have the same easy going melody and jazzy trumpet playing of the Traffic man in his 80’s heyday; and David Hidalgo’s voice isn’t a million miles away either.
Track #3 Mis-Treater Boogie Blues had me doing a double take too; as that surely must be Billy Gibbons on guitar. No? Los Lobos have done a note for note homage to Texas Boogie Maestro’s ZZ Top here and the end result is head down, butt swaggling magnificent.
Another ‘rocker’ Too Small Heart sounds amazing on headphones as the guitar and bass go from headphone to headphone and back again just like the early days of that new fangled stereo.
A few tracks later we finally get the first of two true Tex-Mex folk-rock songs; that I’d guess most casual fans like me were expecting from the off. Funnily enough this and La Tumbra Sera El Final are wonderful and full of charm; they stick out like sore thumbs compared to the rest of the album which is AOR/Soft Rock at its very best.
With the album bouncing from genre to genre it’s difficult to pin down highlights and stand-out tracks; but I think I will pick the gentle title track Gates of Gold; if for nothing else the mandolin playing is exquisite and the song quite beautiful.
Not the most prolific of bands throughout their 40 year career Los Lobos are unquestionably excellent musicians and songwriters; and I urge you to stick with this album; but I fear many will stream it first and cherry pick the songs that suit their narrow musical tastes. But perhaps that is the way of the world now anyway.
Released September 25th 2015