Los Lobos, “Native Sons”

By Robert Hann

Los Lobos, “Native Sons” (2021)

One of my favorite things about being alive, about my own particular flavor of human consciousness, is album listening. And with few exceptions, my favorite album listening experiences happen not when the album is immediately accessible, but when my relationship with the music grows over time.

Sure, I have records that clicked immediately. But on my personal list of all-time greats, the majority are records that I didn’t “get” right away. Perhaps a couple songs stand out initially, and after a few spins of the complete album I find myself skipping to those songs. Those songs are good enough that my listening spreads out and another song joins them. Then another and another, until eventually I find myself playing the entire song sequence on repeat.

I am forever in pursuit of the next album that will provide that experience. I am zealous about the search because when it happens, it’s bliss. It’s one of few versions of joy that I understand viscerally.

I can’t predict how or when it will happen, and it’s rare. Much more often than not, those first couple of songs end up being all there is. But I like the inability to predict because it keeps me hungry and searching for new music. And I like the rarity, too, because that makes finding it not just joyful, but valuable.

It happened to me with Los Lobos’ Native Sons.

As a Los Lobos fan and Los Angeles native, I knew that the band doing a collection of LA cover songs would be in my wheelhouse before I’d heard any of it. But at first I wasn’t totally on board with every tune. After listening through twice, I found myself skipping from ‘Los Chucos Suaves’ to ‘Sail On, Sailor’ to ‘Native Son’ (an “original cover,” in the words of David Hidalgo). And then I added ‘Dichoso.’ And though I can trace my appreciation of the album track for track, I’ll just say here that before I knew it, Native Sons on repeat became the soundtrack to my August.

Maybe it’ll be the soundtrack to your September. And if that September ends up including more pandemic-related unpredictability, consider this from the liner notes: “… while [Los Lobos] were just doing what they do, they have also managed to accomplish something even greater here, intentional or not: to illustrate by example the importance of connection through challenging times — not just to old songs, but to friends — and of finding a way to stay together, carrying what’s most important forward and into new light.” Or this: “And every time [they] leap into new territory, they prove that they are a band that is much, much more than anyone had thought they were. Like their home town. Like your home town. Like you.”

Robert Hann: roberthann.dds@gmail.com

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