Band of Brothers
Los Lonely Boys have found fame with an infectious blend of rock, Texas blues, soul, country and Tejano music that they’ve termed, “Texican rock ‘n’ roll.”
“It’s what we felt our music was,” explains Los Lonely Boys’ bassist JoJo Garza. “It was a way for us to create a genre of music. We’ve always had a very diverse musical pot. We’re not just pop or rock or ballads or country, we’re all of it. And being from Texas is a really big thing. A lot of great music has come out of Texas.”
This versatile approach is amply demonstrated by the Grammy-winning trio on their latest album, “Revelation,” released this week – just in time for a return to Maui on Friday in the Castle Theater.
Opening with the uptempo, south-of-the-border flavored “Blame It On Love,” they explore reggae territory with “Give A Little More,” massively rock on tracks like “Can’t Slow Down,” and even nudge into bright, Beatles-influenced pop on “There’s Always Tomorrow.”
“The musical influences on Los Lonely Boys are definitely people like Bob Marley and the Beatles,” JoJo notes. “We’re always experimenting musically to expand. There are a lot of good tunes, and we feel it will be able to cross over different boundaries and fit into a lot of angles of the puzzle. It’s always been important for our music to bring people together. We’re trying to reach all corners of the musical earth.”
To help forge the collection of songs, the three brothers, Henry, Ringo and JoJo Garza, worked with an eclectic cast of co-writers, including Raul Pacheco of Ozomatli and Black Eyed Peas collaborators George Pajon Jr. and Keith Harris.
Calling the album “Revelation” reflected the manner in which songs are sometimes revealed to the musicians. “Some of the time our music comes through a dream or in the middle of the night when you wake up and your head’s full of music and lyrics,” JoJo explains. “We’re strong believers in God, and we believe in a sense it’s been revealed to us. We called it ‘Revelation’ because it’s something that was revealed to us, and it’s something that we will be able to reveal to the world.”
The new album marks Los Lonely Boys’ first recording since guitarist Henry sustained a serious back injury after falling from the stage during a February 2013 concert.
“It was really horrific,” says JoJo. “It was a big setback for our career because we’ve been off pretty much a whole year. It was a big wakeup call for the family. The most important thing was Henry getting better. We’re just thankful he’s alive and doing a lot better.”
Raised in San Angelo, a small farming town in West Texas, JoJo (bass, vocals), Henry (guitar, vocals) and Ringo (drums, vocals) began playing together at a young age, backing their father, Enrique Garza Sr., a popular local musician.
“We learned a lot about the real world, and I’m not talking about a TV show,” he says about backing their dad. “We were able to see what people were like without veils or filters. It was a big eye-opener, and without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today.”
A major shift in their careers came when country icon Willie Nelson began championing the band. After hearing them playing at a small club in Austin, Texas, Nelson offered the use of his Pedernales recording studio and played guitar on their Grammy-winning debut album.
“He pretty much stamped us ‘Willie Nelson-approved,'” JoJo enthuses. “It was really amazing. To this day, we could never be thankful enough. He had us on Farm Aid, telling the world we were good enough to listen to.”
The band’s famous mentor also contributed to their follow-up CD, “Sacred,” and he invited them to perform on the “Willie Nelson and Friends: Outlaws and Angels” concert special, which included the likes of Bob Dylan and the Stones’ Keith Richards.
Los Lonely Boys scored a major hit with their song, “Heaven,” which even landed in the country charts.
“It was a complete surprise, because what a lot of people don’t know is that our first record was turned away by every major label,” JoJo says. “Even people in our camp were saying, ‘Are you a gospel band or a Christian band?’ We’re people who live life and are able to put our experiences in song, and one was ‘Heaven,’ which was a real-life experience. Henry and his wife practically lost a son at five months, and that’s where a lot of ‘Heaven’ came from. When it became a smash, we were definitely surprised and very thankful.”
In recent years, their recordings have included the unplugged, “Keep On Giving: Acoustic Live!,” “Rockpango” and the covers EP, “1969,” which included rootsy-rocking versions of Santana’s “Evil Ways” and tunes by the Beatles and The Doors.
“It was about giving gratitude for that time,” he explains. “That era was really good for music and spreading the idea of unity. We’re hoping in the future we can add to that catalogue and maybe do it for a few years.”
Looking forward to playing on Maui, JoJo says that the essence of their music is all about “positivity and bringing people together and helping people realize that we’re all in this together. And with each other, we can make any changes we want to, whether personal or political. We’re able to make our lives better with the help of one another.”
One of the finest young jazz singers of her generation, Halie Loren is a gifted interpreter whose repertoire ranges from standards like “Moon River” and “My Funny Valentine” to Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” and Neil Young’s “Lotta Love.”
A Jazz Times review proclaimed: “For sheer vocal beauty and old-school warmth, few among her contemporaries can match Halie Loren.” All About Jazz praised her album, “Heart First,” as “pure magic.” And a Toronto Star review of her latest recording noted, ” ‘Simply Love’ gives the Eugene, Ore.-based singer a track record to be envied by others in the growing lineup of next big thing among jazz vocalists.”
Singing in several languages, Loren transcends genres to find new ways of presenting familiar songs, whether jazz standards, pop, classic rock or folk. Among her influences, she cites Nat King Cole, Cassandra Wilson, Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell.
“I see a lot of my role in singing standards as being a storyteller and as an actress,” Loren reported in an interview. “There is always a seed of an idea in every song that I have experienced or that I can understand. And I feel that my goal in performing that piece is to bring that out, and as a result, it becomes my own story.”
A star in Japan, she routinely sells out shows there, and “Simply Love” landed at the top of the Japanese Billboard jazz chart.
* Halie Loren appears tonight at 7:30 in the Castle Theater. She performs with pianist Matt Treder and bassist Mark Schneider, plus Maui drummer Paul Marchetti. Tickets are $12, $32 and $42, plus fees. Visit www.mauiarts.org.
Afro-pop star Oliver Mtukudzi and his band, The Black Spirits, will make their Maui debut Saturday in Castle Theater.
Mtukudzi and The Black Spirits create exuberant music that has been described as a mixture of Zimbabwean jit pop style, South African township and Korekore traditional drumming styles.
More than just an entertainer, Mtukudzi is committed to addressing social challenges, using his music as a vehicle to speak about the issues he’s passionate about. Featuring strong sociopolitical themes driven by a desire to see the world conquer hate, fear and greed, the band promotes tolerance and nonviolence with popular tracks, such as “Tozeza Baba” and “Ngoromera.”
In recent years, Mtukudzi founded an art center in Zimbabwe and became a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador for eastern and southern Africa, focusing on youth development and HIV/AIDS.
“Where I come from, you don’t get to sing a song if you have nothing to say,” Mtukudzi told CNN. “So every song has something to do with that man in the street, he must be able to use it in his life. If we love and respect each other, the world would be a beautiful place. We need to spend the time we’re here making good footprints.”
A member of Zimbabwe’s Korekore tribe, he sings in the Shona language as well as Ndebele and English. Bonnie Raitt has described Mtukudzi as a cross between soul legend Otis Redding and reggae great Toots Hibbert. She credits his music as an inspiration for her composition, “One Belief Away,” and recorded his song, “Hear Me Lord,” on her “Silver Lining” album.
* Oliver Mtukudzi and The Black Spirits take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Castle Theater. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 day of show. Contact the MACC with details in previous listing.