In the disposable culture of today’s music industry, it’s almost inconceivable that a band could stay together for close to 40 years without the benefit of sustained platinum sales/arena-seating success while rising from a relatively narrow niche. Inconceivable for most bands, but clearly not a problem for the massively talented Los Lobos, which formed in 1973 and shot to prominence with their magnificent debut, How Will the Wolf Survive?. The band has been answering that title question for the past quarter century, oblivious and impervious to prevailing trends, making the music they love for a multi-cultural audience that loves them for it.
On Tin Can Trust, Los Lobos’ latest (and debut for Shout! Factory), the gifted L.A. quintet (David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin) does best what they have always done well — combine the members’ Mexican Folk/Cumbia heritage with an unflinching love of Blues, Rock, Country and R&B and make a brilliant hybrid sound that is unmistakably their own.
The band’s brilliance over its recorded history is that every subsequent album has advanced its evolution and yet sounded fresh and vibrant enough to be a sophomore album. Tin Can Trust faithfully follows that blueprint, from the laconically edgy “Burn It Down” (featuring backing vocals from Blues stylist Susan Tedeschi) to the loping Blues Rock of “On Main Street” to the gorgeously Waitsian melancholic burn of “Jupiter or the Moon.”
As always, Los Lobos directly and seamlessly reference their musical and cultural heritage with “Yo Canto” and “Mujer Ingrata,” songs that flow seamlessly into the set like the diverse playlist of a border radio station. The scruffy John Hiatt-esque balladry of the title cut, the Blues-fueled shuffle of the instrumental “Do the Murray,” the slow-fuse explosion of “All My Bridges Burning” and the slinky-jam cover of the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway” would all be highlights on an album with lesser songs to point up their greatness. But no such songs exist on Tin Can Trust, another flawless example of Los Lobos’ timeless genius.