PLAYBACK : BY KEVIN O’HARE
Los Lonely Boys, “Forgiven” (Epic) 3 stars.
They’re a dynamic live band so it makes plenty of sense that co-producer Steve Jordan decided to simulate a live setting to record Los Lonely Boys’ third studio album.
Recorded in Austin, Texas, it finds the Garza Brothers – Henry on guitar, Jo Jo on bass and Ringo on drums – playing on a studio soundstage, duplicating the set-up from their concert performances. For the most part the approach works just fine. The trio takes its trademark brand of fiery but soulful Tex-Mex blues and lights a fire under it on cuts like the gritty, Stevie Ray Vaughan-styled “Heart Won’t Tell a Lie,” or the groove-filled, slightly Allman Brothers’ reminiscent lead single “Staying With Me.” The difference between those acts and Los Lonely Boys is that the latter have a love of pop melodies and harmonies, which has been evident since they scored their breakthrough hit “Heaven” in 2003.
Henry Garza remains the driving force in the band, a tremendous guitarist who is consistently at the top of his game on “Forgiven.” His fevered fretboard work makes a huge difference in several tracks, notably “Another Broken Heart,” and the rock solid “Superman.”
A real treat here is the band’s faithful cover version The Spencer Davis Group’s vintage radio fave “I’m a Man,” which finds Henry in particular ripping things up.
Some of the material isn’t quite up to par with that found on the troupe’s 2003 self-titled debut or 2006’s “Sacred.” “Make It Better,” and “You Can’t See The Light,” are both pretty drab and frequently it’s the band’s musical virtuosity that gives a major lift to some of the lighter songs and subsequently ends up saving the day. Other times it’s the harmonies that come to the rescue, such as during “Love Don’t Care About Me.”
Still there’s enough to get excited about on any Los Lonely Boys’ release and “Forgiven” is no exception. The title track, with its theme of repenting and a search for redemption is just one of several songs here that rank among the band’s best.
Meanwhile, Jordan, the esteemed drummer best known for his work with Keith Richards and John Mayer among others, proved a perfect choice to co-produce the disc and no doubt helped inspire the Garzas plenty along the way.