I’m a Mexican.
By that I don’t mean I’m from Mexico, but I’m from L.A. and am the offspring of a genuine multi-generational Los Angelena. For those of you a little rusty on the ol’ history, California was Mexico-in fact, not that long ago. So in spite of my gringo father and surname, I’ve got that serious sangre Mexicana flowing through my veins. The litmus test? Just play a little traditional mariachi music near me. Every goddamned hair on my arms will stand at attention.
Does this rerelease of Los Lobos’ debut album pass my litmus test? Hell yes. Before these guys made it big with the Ritchie Valens cover “C’mon Let’s Go” and pablum like “Will The Wolf Survive,” they really were just another teenage band from East L.A., playing weddings, quincea§eras, and regular restaurant gigs with a repertoire of some 150 traditional Mexican and Latin American tunes.
The LP starts off with the kick-ass plinka-plink Mexi-guitars of “El Canelo” and cavorts through a wild landscape of regional tunes including classic “Cielito Lindo” en estilo borracho, the famous guajira tune “Guantanamera,” and most importantly, my favorite ranchera cowboy tune, “La Feria de las Flores”-you know, where the wealthy rancher goes over the mountains to the flower fair and brings home a “rare rose” and “transplants” her in his courtyard-all hot poetry and double-entendre stuff. Plus, you get to hear the voices of Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo when they were even sweeter than they are now.
So bust out your old Spanish One primers to crack the code on this puppy, or don’t bother and just sing along happily, screaming “*Ai yai yai yai!” and various gritas when the mood strikes. (Just Another Band From East L.A.) is a bit of lost history we’re lucky to have found.-Sharon Prudencia Harrison