I want to ♥ Los Lobos. For years I was happy to have no interest in them. I didn’t care for the movie La Bamba and quickly tired of hearing the band’s cover of Ritchie Valens‘ big hit, a song that had already worn out its welcome through its near-“novelty song” status since childhood. I didn’t tune into the roots-rock thing. I associated them with The Blasters and that album cover of the first Blasters record, the one with the cartoon image of the big, sweaty face. Phil Alvin’s voice gave me the willies. Somehow his voice colored my initial ability to ♥ Los Lobos.
After the band had been around for years I finally heard 2 songs that first made me appreciate the band: “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” off the Mitchell Froom (of all producers!)-produced Kiko (1992) and a cover of the Grateful Dead (of all bands!) song “Bertha.” I’ve always had a soft spot for “Bertha.”
Years passed and I kept trying to get into Los Lobos. They were musicians’ musicians, the kind of musicians my uncle might have turned me onto back in my childhood, when he let me paint Day-Glo designs on his bedroom wall while listening to 8-tracks of Traffic, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, et al… I bought Kiko and a 2-CD collection of Los Lobos in the late-90s. The former was OK; the collection had a live version of “Bertha” but too much of that jangly stuff from the early albums and live blooz jams, the sort of thing Stevie Ray Vaughn might do, the sort of thing fat guys with ponytails and soul patches might dig.