Even Bob Dylan was in a bit of a creative funk at the time. After releasing Infidels in 1983, he went into the worst slump of his career when he released Knocked Out Loaded and Down in the Groove. Those two frisbees made Self Portrait look good. It would be 1989 before Bob rebounded with the excellent Oh Mercy.
In 1984, I had been living in Hebbronville for two years. As part of my transition to life in South Texas, I was listening to a lot of country music. After falling in love with his duet with Willie Nelson on Poncho and Lefty, I began digging deeper into Merle Haggard's catalogue. I had also discovered Hank Jr and was listening to a lot of his music.
There was one new album released in 1984 that really fit my ear. It was How Will the Wolf Survive? by Los Lobos. Combining tradition Mexican music and a modern Tex-Mex sound with good old rock and roll, this album was unlike anything on the radio. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, it was the major label debut of the band from Los Angeles that has gone on to recorded many fine albums.
Listening to this album today, I can't believe how good it sounds. The first cut, Don't Worry Baby, sounds like Howlin Wolf backed by the Doug Sahm's old band. It's blues. It's Tex-Mex. It's good. The album also contains several sweet gentle tracks like A Matter of Time, a brilliant song about immigration and it's effect on families, and the short instrumental, Lil' King of Everything. The band really rocks on The Breakdown and I Got Loaded. My favorite cut is Will the Wolf Survive. It captures the sound and talent of the band perfectly.
In December of 1990, I was lucky to see Los Lobos play in Houston at the Tower Theatre. They were the opening act for Steve Earl. Earle, who was also a favorite of mine at the time, was battling demons that night and he was terrible. Los Lobos were really on fire and they blew Earle's drug and booze fueled bullshit away. It was a memorable set that really showed the talent of the players in the band.
I can remember leaving the concert being astounded by the playing of David Hidalgo. He played all kinds of guitars and also had great stage presence. I said that night: "That guy is the Mexican Eric Clapton."
How Will the Wolf Survive should be on your playlist. It is available on iTunes and from Amazon.