Album review: Los Lobos’ ‘Tin Can Trust’

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It’s easy to get seduced by the relaxed bluesy shading of Los Lobos’ “Tin Can Trust,” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that provide a jolt. Songwriting partners for more than a dozen albums now, Louis Perez and David Hidalgo can still chronicle the working class with vivid specificity. When Hidalgo sings “It’s only love I bring” on the title track, it’s a gripping moment of resignation; he’s channeling a narrator who seemingly knows full-well that adoration doesn’t always go as far as cash in a recession.

Recorded in the East L.A. neighborhood where Los Lobos were birthed in the early ‘70s, there’s plenty of scruff in the stories on “Tin Can Trust.” The 11 tracks are all carefully decorated, be it the vintage guitar strut of “On Main Street” or the sparse atmospheres of “27 Spanishes,” where the hand drums, rhythmic clanks and jagged guitars reverberate as if they were laid down in an alley.


Just as unsavory are the noir-ish horns that punctuate “West L.A. Fadeaway,” where Hidalgo sings of running into an “old mistake.” If there’s a qualm to be had here, it’s that Los Lobos make the grit sound a little too comfortable. Opener “Burn It Down” simmers, but never catches aflame, setting the stage for a collection of strife that doesn’t really gets its hands dirty. Make no mistake, the storytelling is detailed and the musicianship is precision-sharp, but dotted with faithful Spanish-language takes on cumbia and Norteno styles, and one unnecessary blues-jam interlude, “Tin Can Trust” ultimately eases into traditionalism.

— Todd Martens

Los Lobos
“Tin Can Trust”
(Shout Factory)
Three stars (Out of four)

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