- Los Lobos
- Disconnected in New York City
The eponymously named MTV series of the 1990s spawned a new genre in rock music- unplugged. Artists would trade in electric guitars and keyboards for Martins and Steinways, drummers either pulled way back or reached for the bundle sticks and brushes, and old classics found new life reworked and delivered to an intimate audience. Most of those that went acoustic, if not all, rode the wave of the word and ‘unplugged’ became a ubiquitous inclusion in many an album title as both sales pitch and fair warning, regardless of whether it was a resulting performance of the music channel’s show or just coat tailing on its success.
After 40 years as a band, Los Lobos is still finding ways, in this case with a thesaurus, to separate itself from the rest. Disconnected in New York City, an entry in the unplugged category and the venerable band’s latest release, offers some notable exceptions along the familiar path. Steve Berlin keeps the keyboards electrified as well does bassist Conrad Lozano, and the set, performed at the cozy City Winery, thankfully is not taken as an opportunity to change up the arrangements, add a string quartet, or drop in some gratuitous covers. Instead, it’s the wolves as vibrant and dynamic as they have always been, just a bit quieter.
The guitar trio of David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, and Louie Perez attack their axes with the same passion and soul as when amped and overdriven. From the opening riff of “The Neighborhood” through the “La Bamba/Good Lovin’” closer, the 13 songs chart a course through Lobos history from high school band in East L.A. to enduring rock stars decades later. As much as “Oh Yeah” ripples with smoky intensity, “Tears of God” caresses. The graceful heartbreak of “Little Things” and thumping rumble of “Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)” slotted in succession, is another fine example of the sextet’s range and depth, demonstrating its ability to shift from introspective ballad to dance floor rocker with ease.
From its inception Los Lobos has often devoted segments of its concerts, sometimes entire tours, to acoustic performance. The transition to a full length album isn’t a stretch, nor should it be a surprise to its fans. The surprising thing, if there is one, is how affecting and powerful its repertoire remains in this form. Despite the ostensible trappings of an acoustic affair, there are no feelings of novelty or formula here. Rather, it’s another doubloon from Los Lobos to add to the collection