Boys Of Higher-power Pop

Los Lonely Boys are three righteous brothers with a spiritual message in their Tejano-tinged rock

November 09, 2006|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun Pop Music Critic

Los Lonely Boys don't take credit for the spirit of the music -- its vibrancy and propulsion. The band's spicy mix of rock, soul and Tejano is divinely inspired.

"We're doing this because of Jesus, a higher power," says JoJo Garza, one-third of the Texas-based group. "You're up there playing these notes, and we know it comes from somewhere. You're thinking without thinking, you know."

The bassist says he and his two brothers -- drummer Ringo and guitarist and harmonica player Henry -- are vessels for their party-inducing music whose lyrics often extol spirituality and romantic love. The Grammy-winning trio, which performs at Rams Head Live on Tuesday night, is on the road promoting the aptly titled Sacred, its new album. (The show is presented by baltimoresun.com.)

FOR THE RECORD - On today's LIVE cover and in the story on page 6T, the wrong date is given for Los Lonely Boys' concert at Rams Head Live. The show is Friday at 9 p.m. Doors open at 8 p.m. THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR

The CD is the follow-up to the band's 2004 self-titled, major-label debut. Spurred by the smash "Heaven," which last year won the trio a Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group, the album sold more than 2 million copies and immediately pushed the Los Lonely Boys' career into overdrive. The group has toured the world nonstop for two years and has somehow managed to produce a cohesive album.

"We did so much, man," says Garza, who last week was performing in Madison, Wis., with his brothers. "We went to Europe a couple of times. But there wasn't much time to sit still. It was crazy. It was something we've never been through."

The pop success, of course, was a new and sometimes overwhelming experience for the brothers. But the threesome, whose ages range from 24 to 28, has been making music since childhood. The guys followed the family tradition: Their father, Ringo Garza Sr., was also in a band, made up of his brothers, called the Falcones, a fairly popular group in southern Texas during the '70s and '80s. As teenagers, the Garza brothers sang backup for their father when he went solo. But by the dawn of the '90s, after a move to Nashville, Los Lonely Boys were born.

In 2003, the band moved back to Texas, where its breakthrough album was recorded in Willie Nelson's Pedernales recording studio in Austin. The CD was released later that year by Or Music, which was acquired by Epic/Sony the next year. In March 2004, the group's energetic self-titled album received international distribution. Once pop radio latched on to "Heaven," the San Angelo, Texas, natives were suddenly in demand, playing on bills with the Rolling Stones, Tim McGraw and Ronnie Milsap.

"It's funny because it seems no one really wants to hear the message of loving each other and being good to people, being a light," says Garza, the second oldest brother. "We were surprised that people responded to our music like that, you know. We're blessed."

On Sacred, the music is more danceable, the grooves rollicking and charged.

"When we finally got into the studio, we wrote the record right there," Garza says. "We hadn't done that before."

The mix is punched up with sinewy blasts of brass. Brother Henry's guitar lines blaze through the spacious, pop-glossed arrangements. With little time to live with the material, Los Lonely Boys pulled the album together in about three weeks. Musically, the trio sounds looser and more assured. Lyrically, though, the group is still growing. Cliched lines like "cause you're an angel, a blessing, you're sent from above" pop up every other song.

"It was a whole different vibe this time," Garza says. "It's just growth, man. We change every day. Music changes with that. It's getting tighter, getting a little deeper. We're just keeping ourselves open to the Higher Power for more inspiration."

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

See Los Lonely Boys at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place, Tuesday night at 9. Tickets are $27 in advance and $29.50 the day of the show. For more information, call 410-244-1131 or visit ramsheadlive.com

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