Music: Los Lonely Boys

Mar 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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Los Lonely Boys, from left: Henry, Ringo and Jojo Garza

Los Lonely Boys, from left: Henry, Ringo and Jojo Garza

When Los Lonely Boys, a trio of very musical brothers, exploded out of the small city of San Angelo, Texas, in 2004 with the hit single “Heaven” from their eponymous debut album, many wondered, “What can they do for an encore?” After all, rare is the band that hits the jackpot first time out: “Heaven” rocketed to Number One on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, made the Top 20 on the pop charts and won a Grammy; the album sold more than 2 million copies. The appealing and versatile Garza brothers—guitarist Henry, bassist Jojo and drummer Ringo, all in their mid-20s when the album hit—turned up everywhere, it seems, for the next couple of years, including TV awards shows and on other people’s albums (such as Santana’s All That I Am and the Amnesty International John Lennon tribute album, Instant Karma).

And while their subsequent albums haven’t made the splash of their debut, Los Lonely Boys continue to tour successfully worldwide while further developing their craft onstage and in the studio. Drawing from a broad range of musical styles, from rock to soul to folk to various “Texican” traditions (including tejano and norteño), and united by the brothers’ patented harmonies (which have always reminded me of Los Lobos), the group has carved out a unique niche in the mainstream music world and managed to stay true to themselves along the way; never an easy feat.

Front row, from left: Steve Chadie, Jojo Garza and Ringo Garza. Back row, from left: Henry Garza, Frenchie Smith and Kush.

Front row, from left: Steve Chadie, Jojo Garza and Ringo Garza. Back row, from left: Henry Garza, Frenchie Smith and Kush.

Their latest studio album—their fourth, not counting a Christmas set and their fine 2009 covers EP, 1969 (on which they covered Santana, The Beatles, The Doors, Tony Joe White and Buddy Holly)—is called Rockpango, and it’s a solid collection of 11 tunes that really shows their maturity as a band. There’s a good dose of heavy rock riffs, with Henry Garza getting a chance to flash his Hendrix/Stevie Ray side on the exciting title cut, while dipping into more of a Clapton bag on the bluesy “Porn Star.” There’s funky clavinet on a couple of tracks, a wonderfully breezy acoustic romp called “Fly Away,” sumptuous ballads accompanied by strings, a strange but cool spoken-sung number called “16 Monkeys” and catchy riffs throughout that recall everyone from The Beatles to Cream, while still hewing to the Los Lonely Boys sound.

I>Rockpango is their first album where they have been the sole producers, but to keep things in their comfort zone, they once again worked with engineer Steve Chadie (pronounced “shady”), who cut the group’s first two albums (Los Lonely Boys and Sacred), plus 1969. They recorded in their favorite room, Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio, where Chadie is on staff.

“That studio feels like home to us,” comments Jojo Garza. “When we actually build our own studio [in San Angelo], it’s going to be a lot like Willie’s place. I told Chadie we’re going to clone him to make sure we have somebody good behind the board at all times.”

Chadie originally came to Pedernales (located in the Hill Country 30 miles west of Austin) as an intern in 1995, “and my first day, Willie Nelson and the Beach Boys were there. I met Brian Wilson, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I could enjoy doing this!’” he says with a chuckle. He learned the ropes assisting under Larry Greenhill and Stuart Sullivan (who ran Pedernales’ sister facility, Arlyn Studios, in Austin), and after Greenhill left in 2003, Chadie took on more lead engineering duties—like that first Los Lonely Boys album.

Actually, Chadie first encountered and recorded Los Lonely Boys three years earlier. “I think the first time I ever saw them was in 2000. They were at one of Willie’s Fourth of July Picnics [concert extravaganza], and they came on Willie’s bus, and we were like, ‘Who are these kids, man?’ And they sat down with these acoustic guitars and they played, and our jaws just dropped. Wow! After that, I did an acoustic demo with them, and I also assisted and did some Pro Tools work on a record with them, but that never came out. It had some of the songs that turned up on the first album, but they weren’t happy with it so we basically re-did it later; and then there were some other songs that they wrote in between, of course.”

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