Los Lobos’ new cover album Native Sons features a series of hits from the band’s origins of Los Angeles – but there seems to be something missing.
It would seem that Los Lobos have played it safe with this one. Their newest record Native Sons is a cover album that pays tribute to the songs from the band’s homeland of Los Angeles and, whilst it’s a decent collection of covers, the album does seem a little lacking in places – namely due to the fact that many of the tracks feel more like imitations rather than covers.
With the exception of the instrumental solos, the majority of the tracks feel as though they lack a little creativity. Granted, this may just be Los Lobos wanting to stay true to the originals, which is understandable, but it does mean that the overall record is in one sense a little bland. Tracks such as Jamaica Say You Will (originally by Jackson Browne) and Never No More (by Percy Mayfield) feel almost identical to the original versions, with the occasional sprinkle of something different in songs such as Los Chucos Suaves (by Lalo Guerrero Y Sus Cincos Lobos) and Farmer John (by Don and Dewey, later popularised by The Premiers).
In the album’s defence, however, the songs on it are incredibly diverse. From the silky, atmospheric Misery (originally by Barrett Strong) to the romantic Dichoso (by Willie Bobo), the record features a variety of genres including rhythm and blues, Latin and soul. Additionally, there is one original song on the album, the poetic title track Native Son with some beautifully evocative lyrics: ‘There are concrete rivers flowing from the mountains to the sea / towers that almost touch the sky up all around me’.
All in all, I’m in two minds about Native Sons. The tracks are not bad covers at all, but I just expected something more than an album in which it feels as though the band is attempting to imitate the original artists’ performances as much as possible. I would have liked to see a little more adventurousness in Los Lobos’ reinterpretations of the songs, but I’ll put that down to a matter of personal preference. If anything, Los Lobos have certainly done the original songs justice – I just wish they had put more of their own spin on them.