Tuesday, August 10, 2021

New Music: Los Lobos, Cruzados, Divine Horsemen, I See Hawks in L.A., Radio California, Colin Hay

In this column the focus is on six Los Angeles area artists. All have newly-available or soon-to-be released titles definitely worth a listen.

 Los Lobos
Title: Native Sons (New West Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Los Lobos, the Mavericks, the Blasters
Tell me more: East Los Angeles-spawned legends Los Lobos revisit the music of a diverse field of their influential musical heroes on the newly-released Native Sons. The quintet (singer-guitarist David Hidalgo, singer-guitarist Louie Pérez, Jr.,singer-guitarist-keyboardist Cesar Rosas, singer-bassist Conrad Lozano and saxophonist-keyboardist Steve Berlinhonors 13 classics by infusing their own signature style into each of the well-crafted remakes. Thinks kick off with an infectious run through of Thee Midniters' "Love Special Delivery" (bolstered by the blend of horns, freewheeling drums and lead guitar). Classic rock favorites from Buffalo Springfield get the dual treatment via Los Lobos' intoxicating take on "Bluebird" and Americana-flavored "For What It's Worth." Other highlights include a beautiful and nuanced version of Jackson Browne's "Jamaica Say You Well," a rousing jump blues reading of Percy Mayfield's "Never No More" and soulful take on The Beach Boys classic "Sail On, Sailor." Long a champion of Chicano rock, mariachi and música norteña, Los Lobos performs a rollicking version of Lalo Guerrero's "Los Chucos Suaves" and the tender ballad "Dichoso." Los Lobos' stunning version of War's "The World is a Ghetto" features several guests, including Little Willie G. (who sang on the title track back in 1972) along with Jacob G. (Willie's son), R&B artist Barrence Whitfield and world class percussionist Camilo Quinones. Los Lobos also ties the thematic journey together via the inclusion of the original "Native Son." Information: LosLobos.org.

Title: She's Automatic (Scamco Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Los Lobos, Billy F Gibbons, Steve Earle, The Doors' "L.A. Woman" album
Tell me more: Signed to Clive Davis' Arista Records in 1983, Los Angeles-based Cruzados released two acclaimed albums featuring an infectious and raucous style of Latin-tinged post-punk hard rock before calling it quits in 1991 (those wanting to see the band in those early years can catch their screen appearance in the 1989 film "Road House" performing "Don't Throw Stones" from the band's After Dark LP). Now, Cruzados are back with She's Automatic (out Aug. 13, 2021 via Scamco Records), an 11-track disc that fully delivers on the band's genuine legacy. Founding bassist-songwriter Tony Marsico, guitarists Loren Molinare and Mark Tremalgia, singer Ron Young and drummer Rob Klonel bring a rootsy power and fun spirit to the songs, with a slew of great guests adding additional wizardry to the tracks.  The classic rock-mining "On The Tilt A Whirl," hard-hitting "Nine Million Tears," heavy Texas blues stomp "Son of the Blues," gentle "Sad Sadie" (featuring guest vocals from John Doe), Southern blues rocker "Let Me Down" (featuring guitarist Dave Alvin and accordion player David Hidalgo) and rowdy "54 Knockouts" (with sax great Steve Berlin of Los Lobos) are among the winning originals on the Cruzados return. The album draws to a killer close with the hypnotic blues rocker "Rock That Boat," featuring some killer blues harp from Jimmy Z and the collective power of all five members of Cruzados. Information: CruzadosBand.com.

 Divine Horsemen
Title: Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix (In the Red Records Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Flesh Eaters, X, Dinosaur Jr.
Tell me more: On Aug. 20, Los Angeles' Divine Horsemen returns after 33 years to release Hot Rise of an Ice Cream Phoenix. The forthcoming album will mark the band's first release of new music since the "A Handful of Sand" EP was released in January 1988. Chris Desjardins (a.k.a. Chris D.) and Julie Christensen introduced their groundbreaking project via Time Stands Still (released in 1984 via Enigma Records). The end of the duo's marriage around the time of their A Handful of Sand release might have ended the story of Divine Horsemen for good, but the two remained in touch and on good terms. A series of fortuitous events led the two artists to reform Divine Horsemen to record the forthcoming album. The two singers voices blend with the kind of magical allure that draws comparisons with Exene Cervenka and John Doe of X fortified with the heavy rock sweep associated with Crazy Horse and Dinosaur Jr. on select tracks and gentle nuance of the collaborations between Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes on others. A mix of originals and creatively reworked covers fill the album, all potent. The crunchy opener "Mystery Writers" (with terrific lyrics from Chris D.), beautiful acoustic cut "Barefoot in the Streets" (with lyrics by Chris D. and music by Christensen) and snappy indie rocker "Stony Path" are among my faves on the album. The epic "Falling Forward" is striking, a masterful blend of the two singers' voices enhanced by expansive guitar work from Peter Andrus. Information: DivineHorsemen.com

 I See Hawks in L.A.
Title: On Our Way (Western Seeds Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, John Doe
Tell me more: While the world has changed in monumental and challenging ways since I See Hawks in L.A. released their previous album Hawks with Good Intentions in September 2019, the Los Angeles troupe's forthcoming album On Our Way (coming Aug. 27, 2021) offers the perfect chance to reconnect with the beauty around us. On the alt country quartet's On Our Way the efforts of singer-guitarist Rob Waller, multi-instrumentalist/backing vocalist Paul Lacques, bassist-vocalist Paul Marshall and percussionist-vocalist Victoria Jacobs to stay connected by songwriting via FaceTime and completing recording remotely during the pandemic astound. This is a beautiful and soul-stirring set of songs that defies the angry shouting heard on 24-hour cable news in favor of songs about "Geronimo, Muhammad Ali, the Faulknerian dilemma, in language sometimes more abstract and mirroring than narration" (according to press notes) as well as "...classic Hawks train beats and country rockers about Marin Wiccans, London mod dub hippie markets and the [un]certainties of love and broken hearts." Indeed, the range of topics is equaled by the musical depth displayed on the collection. From the lovely mandolin- and pedal steel guitar-adorned Americana opening gem "Might've Been Me" and authentic countrified "On Our Way" to the spoken word neo-trance blues of "Mississippi Gas Station Blues" and psychedelia-laced "Kensington Market" and poignant "Geronimo" I See Hawks in L.A. creates songs that tap into authentic country, roots, bluegrass and folk stylings with amazing warmth and might. A number of guest performers help further bring the rich tapestry of songs to life. Information: iseehawks.com

 Radio California
Title: Whiskey Sour and a Cheap Motel (Radio California)
You might like if you enjoy: Youth Gone Mad, Hüsker Dü 
Tell me more: Los Angeles area-based Radio California is back with another batch of genre-be-damned originals (Whiskey Sour and a Cheap Motel) pulled from the band's signature sonic stew of art damage, garage rock, punk, spoken word and experimental rock 'n' roll. I'm always amazed where singer--guitarist-lyricist Jesseo and company come up with their truly-original sound; Jesseo's songs and vocal delivery are reflective and emotive even when the sonic sphere around him is awash with various instrumental textures and rhythms. The opener ("Whiskey Sour") is dreamy at its core thanks to some cool Johnny Marr-styled rhythm guitar work even while a driving drum pattern and forceful lead guitar blasts (the latter courtesy of guest player Hank Williams) assure the listener is in for something different. "Over the Top" blends punk and garage rock styles with a clap-along rhythm; spoken word, harmonies and vocal humming along with some evocative lead guitar lines intersect in "URA Wonder." The hard-edged punk rocker "Same Fate" tackles the grim reality that "Your all the same when it comes to the end / No matter what kind of box they put you in" with melodic force. Elsewhere, "My Monet" recalls the approach of The Cure's early work. Information: https://www.facebook.com/Radio-California-429692217119882.

 Colin Hay
Title: I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself (Compass Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Colin Hay, Men At Work, The Beatles
Tell me more: Colin Hay is back with another essential album, this one a full-length disc of incredible covers — I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself  he makes his own. Indeed, beloved songs from The Beatles, Kinks, Faces and others benefit from the Men At Work front man's meticulous touch. There is so much to celebrate on the 10-track collection. Hay's natural melancholy-rich baritone hits its mark early on via the confessional title track (a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition), Ray Davies' 1967 favorite "Waterloo Sunset" and The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)." In Hay's skilled hands, there is a reflective approach where the songs' melodies and lyrics are thrust center stage sans cliche — just listen to his tearful take on Gerry and the Pacemakers' "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying." I've always been disappointed by attempts to cover the Jimmy Webb-penned Glen Campbell classic "Wichita Lineman"; Hay's ethereal take on the song is beautiful and moving. The arrangement is mostly faithful, but Hay's signature vocals envelop each line of the masterwork as it artfully builds to a majestic close. While most of the selections are pulled from the 1960s, Hay effectively reintroduces the Justin Currie-penned mid-'90s Del Amitri masterpiece "Driving with the Brakes On" via a bold rendition that burgeons from its plaintive opening into a glorious finale. Information: ColinHay.com.

Robert Kinsler

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