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Los Lobos

Los Angeles-based band that seamlessly combined Mexican folk music with rock & roll, R&B, blues, and country music.

Los Lobos were one of America's most distinctive and original bands of the '80s. They may have had a hit with "La Bamba" in 1987, yet that cover barely scratches the surface of their talents.

Los Lobos are eclectic in the best sense of the word. While they draw equally from rock, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B, blues, and traditional Spanish and Mexican music, their music never sounds forced or self-conscious.

Instead, all of their influences become one graceful, gritty sound. From their very first recordings, their rich musicality was apparent; on nearly every subsequent record, they have found ways to redefine and expand their sound, without ever straying from the musical traditions that form the heart and soul of the band. After releasing an independent EP in the late '70s and an EP in 1983, Los Lobos delivered their first major-label album, How Will the Wolf Survive?, in 1984; it received an enormous amount of critical acclaim, as well as a dedicated following of fans.

In the next four years, they released a marginally successful attempt to make their wildly eclectic sound palatable for a pop audience (By the Light of the Moon), a soundtrack of old Ritchie Valens songs that was a hit (La Bamba), and an album of traditional Mexican music (La Pistola y el Corazón). The band took two years off and returned with The Neighborhood in 1990; the album was a varied and powerful rock & roll record that was better than anything they had released in six years.

Kiko, released in 1992, brought Los Lobos into more experimental territory, without ever abandoning their graceful songwriting. Los Lobos celebrated their 20-year anniversary with Just Another Band from East L.A., a modestly titled two-CD set that featured most of their biggest singles and recognized songs. It also had rare tracks from their first album, outtakes, and live tracks that fans had been waiting for.

They didn't appear together on record again until 1995, when Los Lobos and Lalo Guerrero released the children's record Papa's Dream on Music for Little People Records. They also scored the film [muzeItalic]Desperado[/muzeItalic] and contributed tracks to several other soundtracks and tribute albums. Their last release for Warner Bros.

came in the form of 1996's Colossal Head, another critically acclaimed album that still failed to excite the label enough to keep them on the roster. Feeling dejected, they left one another to concentrate on side projects, like Soul Disguise, Houndog, and the Latin Playboys.

The latter was the most dedicated project of the bunch, eventually becoming another regular group for David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez, on top of their duties for Los Lobos, after previously releasing an album in the early '90s. Los Lobos came back together in 1999, when they recorded and released their first record for Hollywood Records, This Time. Another Los Angeles-themed gem from the group, it didn't perform up to the label's liking and they only managed to deliver one more record for the company, the re-release of 1977's Del Este de Los Angeles.

Rhino/Warner Archives released the Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set the following year, but despite the career retrospective, they were still together and came back on Mammoth Records for the Good Morning Aztlan release in 2002. Two years later, artists such as Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, and Mavis Staples joined Los Lobos for The Ride.

In 2004, as Los Lobos celebrated 30 years in the music business, they recorded a pair of sold-out shows in San Francisco, which became the basis for a live album and DVD, Live at the Fillmore, remarkably the veteran group's first "live" set. Wolf Tracks: The Best of Los Lobos, the first successful attempt at a concise overview of the band's weighty catalog, arrived in 2006, along with the loosely conceptual new release The Town and the City, which ranks up there with the best of the band's three decades of material.

Their second children's album (following the aforementioned Papa's Dream), Los Lobos Goes Disney, appeared in 2009 and found the band paying tribute to Walt Disney movie musicals. The band returned to originals for the sturdy Tin Can Trust, released in 2010.

~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine.

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INFLUENCERS

FOLLOWERS

DECADES ACTIVE

1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s

MUSIC STYLES

Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, College Rock, Latin, Mexican Traditions, Roots Rock, Tex-Mex, Heartland Rock, Americana
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