Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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LOS LOBOS
Wolf Tracks: The Very Best of Los Lobos
Rhino

Holding off on the fancy stuff for a Chicago-style classic-rock set

Although they surfaced on the punkoid Slash label and got all trip-hoppy in their Latin Playboys side project, at bottom these East L.A. winners of a 2001 Billboard magazine lifetime achievement award are one of the strongest straight-ahead rock bands of the past quarter-century. In a sense, their most important member is their most obscure: bassist Conrad Lozano, implacably anchoring blues, boogie, polka, two-step, corrida and what-have-you variants on a solid four-four rhythm. With a brief detour into Mexican folkloricism, which doesn't mean "La Bamba," this 20-year, 20-song overview has a groove that's Latin mostly by way of spicing, accent and aura. It's an assimilationist showpiece that proves Mexican Americans are as American as any other kind--except that some of them write much better songs.

Blender, Mar. 2006