Los Lobos The Ride

It’s their tenth album, and just past their 25th anniversary. It’s as good a reason as any to invite some old friends into the studio for some new material and to turn some older songs inside out. This means that Elvis Costello drops by to croon "Matter of Time,” Mavis Staples sings sweet soul on the horn-driven, Memphis-ised "Someday,” and some new blues singer named Willie G delivers a powerhouse performance on a revved-up "Is This All There Is” (with one of Conrad Lozano’s finest bass lines). The sweetest moment is Bobby Womack singing "Wicked Rain,” which for no apparent reason segues into his own hit "Across 110th Street.” It’s completely unnecessary, but there’s no arguing with the final result. New material like "Rita,” "Charmed,” and the Latin Playboy-ish "Kitate” (with Tom Waits wailing in the background) ensure that this isn’t just a nostalgic excavation. Oddly enough, this marks the first time Los Lobos has produced one of their own records, and they’ve obviously learned loads from past collaborators by making their earthy genre-jumping sound simultaneously modern and vintage, without the slickness usually imposed on them. This is an album that perfectly sums up their career — and for that matter, American music of the rock’n’roll era: from blistering barroom blues to Latin reggae to Mexican folk music to TexMex country to experimental four-track weirdness. The only thing missing is the polka. (Hollywood)