|Written by Kevin Connor|
Sticking to roots applies to a lot more than music.
The itinerary for Los Lonely Boys’ first week of promotion for their new album, Forgiven, includes high profile gigs like Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic and Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” But it starts with an in-store at the Wal-Mart in San Angelo. The big one on the west side of town, not far at all from the Texican Chop Shop. That’s the garage where oldest brother Henry Garza used to work on cars, the last job he had before he could support himself and his family just by playing music. He and his buddy at the shop used to talk about owning the place someday. Now Henry does own it with his brothers JoJo and Ringo.
Sure, there’s more money in the bank. And the success of the 2004 worldwide hit “Heaven” pretty much ensures regular checks in the mail for a lifetime. But the Boys themselves, they’re pretty much the same guys. Funny as ever, loyal to those they know and trust; it’s how others treat them that can be weird or uncomfortable. But the Brothers Garza…they’re still the guys from San Angelo whose fans, friends, and family shop at Wal-Mart. They haven’t moved to the Hollywood Hills or even to West Lake Hills. But they do drive some really cool cars.
Los Lonely Boys shifted gears ever so gently with their third album, which was released nationwide July 1st on Epic Records. Their second full-length, Sacred, was recorded in the same studio (Pedernales) with the same producer (John Porter) as their multi-platinum, eponymous debut. Lightning did not strike twice. The first album had “Heaven.” There was no song on Sacred that struck such a universal chord as Henry Garza’s plaintive “prayer to God,” set to an irresistible summertime groove so catchy most people never noticed the total desperation in the lyrics.
The title track on Forgiven is also a prayer — though not nearly as desperate — recorded with the rest of the album live at East Side Stages in Austin with Steve Jordan producing. Jordan’s résumé includes tours with Keith Richards, The Blues Brothers, Clapton, and producing and playing with John Mayer, one of the very few young guitarists who can approach Henry Garza’s abilities. Guitar Player magazine called Garza “the most compelling Strat-wrangler to emerge from the Lone Star state since Stevie Ray Vaughan.” His guitar playing — with an arsenal of Stevie Ray, Santana and Hendrix-inspired licks — is the band’s greatest strength. Those solos, plus the group harmonies that enhance nearly every song.
Their musicianship, along with the brothers’ undeniable showmanship onstage, should maintain Los Lonely Boys a solid career as recording and touring artists for as long as they care to. Will they ever attain the heights of “Heaven” again? It could prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. One certainly doesn’t hope for any of the Boys to return to the depths of misery necessary to produce a gem like that again, if that’s what it takes. And shouldn’t it be enough to crank out a little goodtime Texican rock ’n’ roll every couple of years and take it out for a crowd-pleasing spin? Trade jokes and talk cars with Jay Leno, knock ‘em dead at Willie’s Picnic — again. Share the headliner load with Los Lobos for the summer, make a pile of money and then go home.
Go home to San Angelo and the family and the Chop Shop. Back your favorite custom car out of the garage and go cruisin’ around the hometown. Sounds like the American dream, Texican-style.
Los Lonely Boys perform at KGSR’s Blues on the Green on Wednesday July 9th in Zilker Park. It’s a free show, with a $3 parking fee.