Cesar Rosas Soul Disguise

Adding to the spate of recently released Los Lobos side projects (Latin Playboys, Los Super Seven), perpetually dark-shaded guitarist Cesar Rosas enters the fray with Soul Disguise. This release might be most appealing for those who felt the band had strayed too far from its roots on Kiko and Colossal Head. All the elements from earlier Los Lobos albums are here — scorching blues, roots rock, and Mexican folk, and saxophone, accordion, and a Hammond B-3 are as far out as the instrumentation gets. As a lyricist, Rosas is limited, but as always, Rosas is a master of groove; Americana rock doesn’t get much better than the opener "Little Heaven,” a tale of love gone bad featuring some lean and ferocious Fender, and "E. Los Ballad #13” is a brilliant Stax-styled album closer. It’s a sturdy collection of songs — only the maudlin ballad "Better Way” is inferior. Soul Disguise showcases the classicism that makes Rosas’ contributions on Los Lobos albums such a perfect compliment to the romanticism and experimentation of David Hidalgo and Louie Perez. Unlike with other bands, getting their ya-ya’s out on the side shouldn’t undermine their future as a whole. (Rykodisc)