The ‘Musical Burrito’ Theory

The ‘Musical Burrito’ Theory

The band of power-rocking brothers Los Lonely Boys mixes soul, metal and Mexabilly on its eighth studio album.

By MARC MYERS (The Wall Street Journal)

Just as Los Lonely Boys were finishing a concert at the Downey Civic Theatre near Los Angeles last February, guitarist Henry Garza ran forward to touch fans’ hands and wound up soaring off the stage. Unaware of an orchestra pit between the stage and the audience, Mr. Garza landed on his face and chest—fracturing his neck and injuring his spine.

“Not realizing there was a gap actually saved me from worse injury,” said Mr. Garza, 35. “My body was limber and absorbed the hit. The lights were bright and all I could see were people excited in the front row. I thought the stage went right up to them.”

Now mostly healed, Mr. Garza and his two song-writing and singing brothers—bassist JoJo, 33, and drummer Ringo, 32—will begin a four-month tour on Jan. 24 in support of their new CD, “Revelation,” due Tuesday. “Acupuncture helped, but I don’t think I’ll ever be completely the same—I still can’t stay in one place too long,” he said. “But I’m ready to rock.”

“Revelation,” the trio’s eighth studio album, comes 10 years after their 2004 single “Heaven,” which reached No. 16 on Billboard’s pop chart and helped the band win a Grammy in 2005. Later that year, they recorded their “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” with Carlos Santana on his album “All That I Am.”

The brothers formed a band in Texas in 1989, uniting roadhouse rock with adult pop, jukebox R&B, country and the conjunto music popular in South Texas—a style-hopping eclecticism that continues to define their success today. Original songs on their new album range from the Bruce Springsteen-influenced “Blame It On Love” and the soul-soaked “So Sensual” to the acid-funk of “Give a Little More,” the metal-wailer “Rule the World” and the Mexabilly “Dream Away.”

“Our Texican roots run deep, bro, but we’re really power rock-and-rollers,” said JoJo. “We grew up around jukeboxes so we know why hit songs work. But we aren’t content doing one thing or fitting a stereotype. Audiences love that our style is mixed and shifts from song to song.”

Born in Snyder, Texas and raised in San Angelo, the Garza brothers were taught to play by their musician father, Ringo Sr. “Dad has always been intrigued by Elvis and the Beatles—his dream back then was to play rockabilly and country,” said JoJo. “In the ’70s, he took his guitar and drove to Nashville in his hot rod, but that didn’t work out. He came back and rejoined his eight brothers in their conjunto band, the Falcones.”

In 1991, Ringo Sr. headed off to Nashville again—this time taking his three sons. “Dad packed us into the station wagon—we were like the Beverly Hillbillies,” said JoJo. “In Nashville, we worked hard every night at every dive—playing originals and whatever people wanted to hear.”

In 1996, the Garza brothers went out on their own, playing clubs across the Southwest. “Ringo had come up with our name years earlier—Los Lonely Boys,” said JoJo. “We wanted to pay homage to my dad, who had written a song for us called ‘Lonely Boy.’ “

Albums followed, with a do-it-yourself garage feel. But for “Revelation,” the band made the business decision to work with top songwriters, to give their material a lift. “JoJo did some writing sessions in Los Angeles with Matthew Gerrard and others, and I wrote in Nashville with Radney Foster,” said Henry. “Radney is from Texas—he’s recorded great albums and works often with songwriters.” During their sessions, Mr. Foster took out a guitar and mandolin and asked Henry to play the songs he was working on. Then they moved slowly through them, sharpening the stories and polishing the rough edges. “On ‘It’s Just My Heart Talkin’,’ JoJo and Ringo had started a melody years ago but we never finished it,” Henry said. “Radney could hear how the story should be painted and the music strengthened.”

Conjunto touches appear lightly on the album. “Music for us is about diversifying and zipping ourselves up in different experiences to let people know we’re all the same,” said Henry. “It’s the musical burrito theory: We fill the tortilla with Fats Domino, Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, bluegrass and other flavors. It’s all good.”

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