By CHRIS GRAY (Houston Press)
Many fans thought Los Lonely Boys were a lucky band right out of the gate, and they were right. Henry, JoJo and Ringo, the Garza brothers from San Angelo, grew up playing music with their father and had a massive hit their first time out of the gate with “Heaven,” a soulful ballad crystallizing their “Texican rock and roll” sound that cracked the Billboard Top 20 in 2004. It charted even higher in more specialized formats.
Although the Garzas never quite reached such lofty chart heights on their subsequent releases, their power-trio structure recalled past greats like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and of course Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, so they quickly won a loyal following among guitar geeks with a taste for Texas blues, a sizable fan base they retain to this day (especially in the Southwest). At the same time, playing up their Latin roots placed them as natural heirs to the Santana/Los Lobos tradition, a style that truly blossomed on 2011 album Rockpango!
But Los Lonely Boys didn’t have a clue just how lucky they were until one night last February in Downey, Calif.
According to bassist/singer Jojo Garza, the band had just played a show at the Downey Theatre and was greeting fans when he heard a sudden, mysterious thud. In his rush to connect with his audience, guitarist/singer Henry Garza had not noticed the open orchestra pit and fallen several feet to the theater floor.
“I thought a speaker had fallen from the ceiling or something,” Jojo says. “I start talking about it too much [and] I start getting into it; I start having flashbacks, man.”
Henry sustained serious injuries, particularly to his back, that have required months of rehabilitation and limited his ability to work on Los Lonely Boys’ new album, Revelation (released today). Jojo says being so close to his brother’s accident and being unable to help him was “horrific,” but the band is drawing strength from Henry’s recovery.
“Man, we’re just happy to have him now,” he says. “He’s doing a lot better. He’s slowly building up the muscles, getting stronger. It’s just a blessing to have my brother alive.”
Henry’s injury did make finishing Revelation a little tricky, Jojo admits. He says the band had finished a good bit of the record before the fall, and that he and drummer/singer Ringo finished what parts they could while Henry was recovering, and Henry would add as much as he was able when he was able to muster the strength.
“But thank God we got it done over a period of time,” says Jojo. “It was some good spurts and bad spurts, but but we took advantage of the times he was feeling really strong and got in to finish it up. We’re really lucky that we got it done.”
Three songs came entirely after Henry’s fall, Jojo notes: “Give a Little More,” a plea to remember the important things in life set to a confident reggae-rock groove (one lyric is “If your brother falls down/ You’ve got to lend a helping hand”); “Familia,” an acoustic-based statement of solidarity; and “Dream Away,” which couples an always-stay-positive message to some nifty fretwork from Henry. Throw in a couple of potential mainstream singles, “There’s Always Tomorrow” and “Can’t Slow Down,” and arguably the hardest-rocking song in their entire catalog (“Rule the World”), and Revelation is scarcely the work of a band that peaked too soon.
But it is definitely the work of a group that knows it has crafted a distinctive sound and continues to refine it. Having mentors like Santana, Los Lobos and Willie Nelson to call on for advice on whether their songs fit that “Los Lonely Boys sound” doesn’t hurt, but the Garzas have been at this long enough they’re also pretty confident keeping their own counsel. Revelation is the second album to be released on their own LonelyTone imprint, which is distributed by Austin’s Playing In Traffic.
Not that they necessarily want to stop there.
“Well, you know, there’s always the hope to get another song on the radio and TV, and get it noticed by a LOT of fans,” the bassist admits. “But man, the real, honest truth is that we focus on the music itself, and I think the rest of it works itself out.”
Los Lonely Boys make an in-store appearance 6 p.m. Wednesday, January 22 at Barnes & Noble Town & Country, 12850 Memorial Dr., 713-465-5616. The band returns to play the Spring Crawfish Festival May 4.