CD reviews: Discs that are sure to spice up your playlist |

CD reviews: Discs that are sure to spice up your playlist

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesHenry Garza and Los Lonely Boys take a crack at some classics on the five-song EP "1969."

On this five-song EP, the Tex-Mex band Los Lonely Boys takes a crack at some classics from the year of Woodstock. Guitarist Henry Garza certainly brings the heat to a version of Santana’s “Evil Ways,” and the border-town flavor comes through in a nice version of the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window.” But the band – which includes Henry’s brothers Jojo on bass and Ringo on drums – adds more or less the same spice, no matter the material.

Fact: Tuesday night at the Wheeler Opera House, Marc Cohn previewed songs from his upcoming album: “Listening Booth,” a tribute to songs released in 1970.

Los Lonely Boys headline the Acoustic Brotherhood Tour, Sunday, Feb. 28 at the Wheeler Opera House.

• produced by Los Lobos (Disney Sound)

The avant-garde barrio rockers Los Lobos doing the music of the squeaky-clean Disney company – a strange coupling until you consider that the band recorded its recent albums for the Disney-owned Hollywood Records.

What’s that? It’s still strange? OK, how about we look at this as a challenge for Los Lobos: Can we cover “Heigh-Ho” (originally sung by the Seven Dwarves), “Cruella De Vil” (from “101 Dalmations”), and “It’s a Small World” (more famous as an amusement park ride than a song) and still keep an edge, and not make it a bad kid’s joke?

Yes, they can. “Not in Nottingham,” from “Robin Hood,” comes off as a beautiful ballad with an island lilt. “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” from “Haunted Mansion,” with guest vocalist Vicki Rosas and a ska beat, is certain to be pulled out for the hippest Halloween parties. “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” gets a mellow, acoustic pace that goes perfectly with the lyrics of sunshine and satisfaction. And “The Ugly Bug Ball,” from “Summer Magic,” Los Lobos claims as its own, giving it their signature fuzzy, East L.A., old-time rock ‘n’ roll stamp.

This ain’t no Mickey Mouse album.

• produced by Russell and Craig Schumacher (Shout! Factory)

Tom Russell knows many corner of the globe. Born in Los Angeles, the 56-year-old singer-songwriter has lived in Spain, Norway, Puerto Rico, Brooklyn, San Francisco and Nigeria. And every place he visits seems to inspire a dark-tinged story rich in detail and emotion. “East of Woodstock, West of Vietnam,” which opens the album, is a look through his eyes at Africa in the ’60s. “Nina Simone” recalls hearing the singer for the first time while in Mexico. The song ends with the plaintive observation, “The darkest of ravens was Nina Simone.”

For all his travels, and the name-checking of the Mississippi River, Santa Ana, Canada, Delaware and more (many more), Russell sounds very much like the Texas troubadour he is at heart. He lives in El Paso, and the Southwest is very much an element of “Blood and Candle Smoke.” The album features members of the Tucson band Calexico, who add a subtle but significant accent.

• produced by Money Mark, Jason Roberts and Santana (Various Music)

Salvador Santana doesn’t absorb much of his father Carlos’ Hispanic element – one of several ways that the son doesn’t follow the father. Most notable is that the 27-year-old Salvador is a keyboardist and singer, rather than a guitarist. Instead of rock, the younger Santana here plays a mix of funk, electronic hip-hop and easy-going pop-soul. Santana’s voice isn’t much, but the sound and vibe are amiable enough.

Salvador Santana performs March 8 at Belly Up, opening for the New Mastersounds.

The stars of gritty Tex-Mex line up to pay tribute to one of their own: San Antonio-born Tejano musician Doug Sahm, who was best known as the leader of the ’60s rock group the Sir Douglas Quintet, and who died in 1999. The great Chicano singer Little Willie G. takes the honor of handling Sahm’s big hit, “She’s About a Mover”; also contributing are Los Lobos, Alejandro Escovedo, Flaco Jimenez, Charlie Sexton and Delbert McClinton. There are no end to these sorts of tributes; this one is memorable.

• produced by Max Baca and Daniel E. Sheehy (Smithsonian Folkways)

Nothing maniacal about this; it’s fairly traditional Tex-Mex conjunto down to the “ay-yi-yi-yi”s on the second track, “A Mover El Bote.” Loads of accordion, all Spanish lyrics, guest appearance by Flaco Jimenez.

produced by Lloyd Maines (New West)

The Flatlanders – the singing-songwriting trio of Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, Texans all – go together like chips, guacamole and salsa. With a side of sorrow. For some reason, when this trio gets together, the melancholy flows, as they lament the changing landscape, dissolving relationships and distant hopes. But there is enough sense of escape to balance things out.

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