Los Lobos The Town and the City

Spun out of a desperate creative period in the band’s career, The Town and the City is a remarkably textured rock’n’roll record by Los Lobos. After celebrating their 30th anniversary together in 2003 and compiling this year’s best-of anthology Wolf Tracks, principal songwriters David Hidalgo and Louie Perez were left scratching their heads. A month before Los Lobos were scheduled to enter the studio to record what would amount to another classic, the two had failed to write one song together. Hidalgo was the first to break the rut, composing the beautiful opener "The Valley” on an eight-track cassette machine. Its uplifting melody and spacious arrangement enabled the rest of Los Lobos to fill it up with a cascading ambience and the organic process of playing together commenced in full force. The album’s title is shared by the first novel written by Jack Kerouac and, just as he struggled to find his voice, Los Lobos pressured themselves to say something vital here. In the end, there is a real darkness to Perez’s first-person narratives, many of which deal with migration and isolation but there’s also a loose feeling within the playing and the musical camaraderie is palpable. Songs like "Hold On” and "If You Were Only Here Tonight” are intriguingly bleak and downcast but they’re matched by sunny rockers like "The Road to Gila Bend,” the bluesy stomp of "Two Dogs and a Bone,” and Cesar Rosas’ traditional Latin American contribution, "Chuco’s Cumbia.” Listening to The Town and the City, it’s hard to imagine Los Lobos grappling with these songs; they’re as inspiring as any in their enviable catalogue. (Hollywood)