Los Lonely Boys

Forgiven

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San Angelo, TX's Los Lonely Boys follow up their excellent 2006 sophomore effort, Sacred, with Forgiven. (Though they seem like they've been around forever, the Garza brothers -- Henry, Jojo, and Ringo -- have only been recording since 2003.) Produced by Steve Jordan, Forgiven doesn't sound a whole lot different than its predecessors, but that's not a bad thing. It contains the same combination of rock, blues, and soul coming together in a seamless blend of originals, offering proof that theirs is a signature sound. In fact, the more Los Lonely Boys record and tour, the deeper they cut the mark in terms of an individual sonic template. The album roars out of the gate with the Latin cum blues-rock of "Heart Won't Tell a Lie," a solid showcase for guitarist Henry Garza. In fact, it's safe to say that, after listening to this a few times, it becomes clear that Garza has forged a style of his own out his love for both Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. There is a more swinging, choppy element here in his rhythmic attack, both in his chord voicings and single-string soloing. They are fluid, electrifying, and deeply soulful. This is such an obvious opener that it should become a second single. In any case, Henry is one of the most underrated guitar players around -- his diversity is a strength, he integrates his approach, and he never waters down one thing in favor of another. On the title track, a silvery midtempo Latin-styled rock ballad, his distortion on the beautifully melodic tune contrasts with Jojo's clean bassline and Wurlitzer and the shimmering cymbal work by Ringo. Then there's the single, "Staying with Me." It feels cut from the same cloth that "Just Like Heaven" was, but what becomes apparent after just one listen is that these cats are creating their own brand of Texas bluesy soul, with gorgeous vocal harmonies; an instantly recognizable melody; the languid, relaxed pace of the groove that drips "emotion" in the vocals (think of a Latin version of the Rascals); and the good-time pulse of the rhythm section (with killer hand percussion as well as the drum kit). There is the acoustic norteƱo flavor in "Loving You Always," with Henry playing a nylon-string guitar, and those elaborate harmony vocals that come together as effortlessly as a backyard sing. There is a stellar cover of the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm a Man" that rivals the original's adrenaline-infused crackle and grit. The wah-wah work on Henry's guitar, the wailing hand percussion by Jordan, and the whomp of JoJo's Wurlitzer carry it into the red. Dr. John makes a guest appearance on the Hammond B-3 in "You Can't See the Light," one of the Garza brothers' finer songwriting moments with just enough of a jazzy background to undercut the Texas rock and Latin soul. All in all, Forgiven proves that Los Lonely Boys are around for the long haul, making records that separate their sound from their influences, and further establishes their identity as one of America's premier roots bands.

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