Dark Shadow of ‘Heaven’

Los Lonely Boys, with Kinky.

At the Santa Barbara Bowl, Thursday, August 24.

Heaven” floated on the summer airwaves in 2004, creating a career for the brothers Garza and their trio Los Lonely Boys (LLB). Beyond the tight guitar of Henry Garza and the tidy harmonies added by bassist bro Jojo and drummer Ringo, Los Lonely Boys’ number-one song showed this band was, most of all, authentic. These were serious and seriously talented musicians who created a sound of the moment true to their place and past, the musical burrito that is southern Texas. Their debut album revealed an accomplished blend of country, blues, conjunto, pop, and the guitar-based Texas jams perfected by Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Henry, Ringo, and Jojo Garza
Click to enlarge photo

Henry, Ringo, and Jojo Garza

In the two years since, the Boys have presented three recorded concerts, including an intriguing tribute and show with country legend Ronnie Milsap and the initial enhanced CD release of Los Lonely Boys, which highlights their live blues chops. So it was surprising that their Bowl show was disappointing — it lacked grit; the performance was a journeyman’s tour of songs from their new album Sacred and their debut release that proved more artisan than art. (The opening band Kinky, however, made for a lively and fun performance.)

What exists from Los Lonely Boys’ filmed and live recorded performances was rarely apparent on the Bowl’s stage. The most memorable highlights came from two oldies: their hit “Heaven” as the encore, and when their father, Enrique Garza, joined them for “Folsom Prison Blues.” And then there was the closing jam that featured Henry’s free-form blues and allowed all the players (including equally talented keyboardist Michael Ramos) to show their stuff.

Stepping out from beneath the shadow cast by “Heaven” has proven difficult for LLB, as none of their material, past or present, captures the same spark. Their live show gets mucked up when branching out. Sticking to simple genres like blues and conjunto allows these gifted musicians to function purely; they should learn to avoid the other junk and just plain play.

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