After five years and a double-platinum album with major label Epic Records, San Angelo’s native sons and rock ‘n roll heroes Los Lonely Boys are going independent. Their newly created Lonely Tone Records is an imprint of the Austin-based indie Playing In Traffic Records (The Steps, Sahara Smith). So how are the Boys choosing to launch their label? With a five-song EP that pays tribute to the influences that inspired the trio of brothers to play music in the first place.
The EP, called 1969, is a brief but satisfying collection of cover songs from that magical year in rock music. 1969 covers diverse but canonical classic-rock ground including Carlos Santana, Blind Faith, The Beatles, Tony Joe White and The Doors. Before you freak out that a band in 2009 is covering your favorite bands from 40 years ago, fret not: The trio has remained true to the originals, opting for a straight-ahead rock ‘n roll approach to these covers.
You’re not going to find anything as horrid as Hilary Duff’s sloppy poppy cover of “My Generation” or Madonna’s lifeless take on “American Pie”. But then again, you won’t find anything as special as Jeff Buckley’s serene cover of “Hallelujah” or Johnny Cash’s heartbreaking take on “Hurt”.
The band’s reverence for the artists who made 1969 a special year for rock music both helps and holds down the band. Los Lonely Boys have the technical chops and recording smarts to make sure that any song they cover will sound like the work of talented and determined professionals. Because that’s precisely what the Garza brothers are. They’re musicians’ musicians. Solid playing, but nothing flashy.
Wisely, they chose to make their cover of Santana’s “Evil Ways” the EP’s opener. This is the hands-down best track in this collection. Musically, it all comes together very well. It’s the most natural fit for the band, as they glide through the song with smooth percussion and able solos. But the best fit for Henry Garza’s vocal style is the cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”, as he does a great job of channeling the whiskey-soaked rasp of Jim Morrison’s agitated voice. There’s plenty of wah-wah guitar on “Well Alright” for fans of that style, while their rendition of The Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” is a quick but pleasing listen.
If different and out there is what you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed. But if Los Lonely Boys are one of your favorite bands and you’re looking for faithful interpretations of rock ‘n roll classics, you’ll find this EP totally satisfying. Honestly, my favorite part of this EP is the hope that these covers are all worked into the band’s live show on their upcoming tour.