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By Fred Adams / photos by James Minchin III, on 28-07-2008 07:56
Since achieving a massive breakthrough three years ago with their chart topping single “Heaven,” Los Lonely Boys – the Texican trio comprised of brothers Henry, Jo Jo and Ringo Garza – have achieved multi-platinum album sales, a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group in 2005, and widespread acclaim from critics and fans alike.
Now, the brothers Garza return with Forgiven, a passionate CD that finds each member of the trio reaching new levels in their playing and singing. With a feeling of true brotherly love throughout, Forgiven is in every bit an instant rock ‘n’ roll classic.
Forgiven is the culmination of what Los Lonely Boys has been building towards for the past decade, the fulfillment of the belief and support of not just millions of fans, but also such notable artists as Willie Nelson (who appeared on the band’s major label debut), Carlos Santana (with whom they toured, as well as writing and playing on “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love” from his 2005 album All That I Am) and Los Lobos (with whom they’ll team for the 2008 edition of the Los Lonely Boys’ Brotherhood Tour). From the bluesy groove of the opening song “Heart Won’t Tell a Lie,” to the yearning plea of the title track, to the heartfelt faith of “Love Don’t Care About Me,” Forgiven impresses from beginning to end. Throw in a rollicking version of the Steve Winwood/Spencer Davis Group hit “I’m a Man,” and Los Lonely Boys have captured the essence of their band on a disc that is sure to garner widespread appeal.
The band is quick to credit producer Steve Jordan, who suggested the band perform live in the studio, an approach they had not previously tried.
“It was good having him with there,” Jo Jo says. “Steve is smart, and has a good heart and good ideas. He had ways to keep the flow going, capture the mood. It sounded better and was easier to create with this format. He’d be there with us, standing there and jamming with this percussion thing he made, like a microphone shaker thing. When we got together with him he was one of the guys. His last name when he was with us wasn’t Jordan, he was Steve Garza!”
To Jordan, who in addition to being an in-demand producer is an elite drummer that has toured with Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan to name just a few, the live-in-studio approach seemed natural. Jordan says, “Obviously from ‘Heaven’ we knew what great songwriters they are and what kind of sound the group has. They sing wonderfully together, three brothers with this chemistry. I went to see them live at the Fillmore last year and it was a great show. They play all-out live. So I thought the best way to capture them, where I would be satisfied and to instill some fun in the process was to capture that live energy and the groove of them playing.”
Asked to name their favorite track, each brother has different answer. Henry says, “They were all so magical, but for me the one that is the foundation is the name of the album, ‘Forgiven.’ When we played that song, for me in my heart and I hope my brothers too, I got that vibe that we knew what this was all about again, what we’re all about. It’s an actual prayer that’s turned into a song, purposefully made that way. For me it was just that whole experience. Felt like a cleansing.”
Ringo makes his debut as featured vocalist on “Superman,” a song he penned for his wife. “I wanted to write for my wife,” he explains. “Henry suggested the Superman theme, and I took if from there. I’ve never sang lead vocals before. I enjoy singing with my brothers. They would always ask me if I wanted to sing lead, but I just wasn’t ready. Third album, I guess.”
Interestingly, Jo Jo’s favorite track, “There Is A War Tonight,” was reserved as a bonus track, for copies of the disc purchased from Wal-Mart. “The song is about the obvious war,” he says, “but also the war every night in our homes and our neighborhoods. There is bloodshed and broken hearts every day. We’ve put it at the front of the show, and are really enjoying playing it.”
Before embarking on the Brotherhood tour, Los Lonely Boys took time from their busy schedule to perform a handful of intimate shows in their hometown of Austin, raising money for Music for Literacy, and offering guitars and lessons to ten children from Big Brothers Big Sisters and ten from the Sunshine Camp of Austin. Beyond funds and awareness being raised, Los Lonely Boys lend a hand whenever they can. They like to give back the joy they have received, and also appeared on last year’s John Lennon Tribute disc to benefit Darfur.
“There is no end to giving back,” says Jo Jo. “It’s our way to give thanks to our fans who believe in us and our music, and it’s important to us. There is no reason to hide real human ups and downs, to having hearts and feelings. There is no pedestal. People gave us this. They believe in God, in Jesus and most of all, good will. If I am walking down the street and see someone in need, there is no way I won’t stop and try to help them. That’s the way we are.”
Though the approach they took in recording Forgiven was new, the songs remain the same unique blend of conjuto, Tex-Mex, blues rock, and pop that made the band famous. Los Lonely Boys sound proud of how far they’ve come, and of their latest release.
“We came from a town with nothing,” Ringo says. “Came from nothing but love and brotherhood – Familia. That’s what drove us. We want to let everybody know that we’ve worked the hardest, really trying to please each other and the fans. We thank the good Lord that we’re able to.
“Of all the success we’ve had, it’s still amazing to hear fans sing the words to the songs we’ve written with our hearts. We write them and think nobody will probably like them,” he says. “But (then) we play them and people sing them back to us! It’s amazing and we appreciate it so much. If I could give a hug to every crowd member, it wouldn’t be enough.”