Los Lobos spent years playing parties, wedding receptions, restaurants, bars, and anyplace else where someone might pay them for a gig before landing a deal with Slash Records, and their first full-length album for the label, How Will the Wolf Survive?, is the work of a band that had learned how to play something for everyone while still maintaining their own musical personality in the process. How Will the Wolf Survive? swings back and forth from straight-ahead rock ("Don't Worry Baby") and potent R&B grooves ("I Got Loaded") to country-accented blues ballads ("A Matter of Time") and Mexican traditional numbers ("Serenata Nortena"), with the band's exemplary taste, musical smarts, and road-tested maturity in evidence on every cut. While rarely flashy, even a casual listen offers all the proof you might need that Los Lobos were a band of world-class musicians, with David Hidalgo's guitar work especially impressive throughout. Just as importantly, How Will the Wolf Survive? was the first album where Los Lobos showed how much they had to say as songwriters, especially on "A Matter of Time" and the title cut, two songs that offered a moving and compassionate look at the lives of illegal aliens in America. On ...And a Time to Dance, Los Lobos showed the world that they were a great dance band, but How Will the Wolf Survive? showed they were a great dance band, and a lot more besides.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming