Personnel: Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, bajo sexto); David Hidalgo (vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums); Louie Pérez (guitar, jarana); Steve Berlin (saxophone, keyboards).
Recording information: Blue Cat Studio, San Antonio, TX; Blue Velvet Studio, Santa Ana, CA; Millagro Studio, Walnut, CA; Native Sound, St. Louis, MO; Playground Studio, Nashville, TN; Revolution Recording, Toronto, ONT.
Photographers: Noé Montes; Cesar Rosas.
Los Lobos were already seasoned veterans who had close to a decade of live work under their belts when the 1983 EP ...And a Time to Dance introduced them to an audience outside Los Angeles, and 32 years on, not only are Los Lobos still together, they're playing with the strength, fire, and imagination that have made them one of America's truly great rock & roll bands. Gates of Gold is Los Lobos' 17th studio album, and it arrives as a biography of the group, Los Lobos: Dream in Blue by Chris Morris, has been published, and while some groups might use this as an opportunity to look to the past or sum up their accomplishments, that's not how Los Lobos do business. One one hand, Gates of Gold does offer a healthy sampling of the many things that Los Lobos do well, from the straight-ahead rock of "Too Small Heart" and the raucous blues blast of "Mis-Treater Boogie Blues" to the fiery Latin swagger of "Poquito Para Aqui," the heartfelt folky simplicity of "La Tumba Sera el Final," and the inward-looking experimentalism of "There I Go" (the latter of which could pass for an outtake from Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On). But on the other hand, even if Los Lobos follow a few recognizable tropes from their songbook, none of these songs or this material sounds rote, and the jazz-flavored space walk through "When We Were Free" confirms this band is a long way from running out of new ideas. The performances are taut and intuitive on Gates of Gold, especially the always outstanding guitar work from David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas (the latter is still a solid blues howler four decades on), and the production revels in new and unexpected sounds, though never simply for the sake of being eccentric. Los Lobos have lasted because they follow their instincts and trust their talents, neither of which seem capable of letting them down; Gates of Gold shows they can contemplate the infinite and chart new paths while still sounding like no one but themselves, and they can do all of this with the force and agility they commanded when half their age. They probably don't have another 32 years of great music left in them, but 21 more may be a safe bet. ~ Mark Deming