Mexican East LA band Los Lobos, which means “the wolves,” named its second album How Will the Wolf Survive? after an article in National Geographic. “It was like our group, our story: What is this beast, this animal that the record companies can’t figure out? Will we be given the opportunity to make it or not?” founding member Louie Pérez told Rolling Stone in 1989 when the 1984 record was named the thirtieth best of the past decade by the magazine. Los Lobos has made it, and on their own terms, having released more than twenty records and toured relentlessly around the world for more than forty years (they started as a high school group in 1973), led by founding members David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas on guitar and vocals, Pérez on drums and vocals, Conrad Lozano on bass and vocals (since 1974), and newbie Steve Berlin on keyboards and woodwinds; he came on board in 1984. As is their trademark, Los Lobos, who come to the New York Society for Ethical Culture for a show December 14, is once again venturing into new territory with its first Christmas album, Llegó Navidad (Rhino, October 2019), a collection of eleven traditional Latin holiday tunes and one original.
“We’re not doing the typical ‘Silent Night’ and all that, which is fine,” Pérez says in a promotional video, continuing, “I mean, I wouldn’t mind doing that in our own kind of way. But there is such a wealth of traditional songs, songs that have been around for a while from all over Latin America.” The band explored more than 150 tunes before deciding what to record. “It took us a while to find the stuff we felt comfortable with,” Hidalgo said. The album includes such gems as “La Rama,” “Reluciente Sol,” “It’s Christmas Time in Texas,” “Las Mañanitas,” “Regalo De Reyes,” and “Christmas and You,” bringing Los Lobos’ unique flair and flavor to foster a feliz navidad for everyone. “Is this true to our ethos? I’d say absolutely,” Berlin explains. At Ethical Culture, you can expect a generous mix of old favorites (“One Time One Night,” “Will the Wolf Survive?”), cool covers (“Bertha,” “Volver, Volver”), and soon-to-be-classic Latin Christmas songs.