WHAT: Los Lobos
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
After scoring a No. 1 hit with "La Bamba" in 1987, Los Lobos easily could have shot for another commercially successful pop album.
Instead, the Mexican-American band -- coming to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Wednesday -- recorded a collection of Mexican folk songs, "La Pistola Y El Corazón." Over its 35-year history, the group never has been one to follow the conventional route.
"We're able to play authentically in any milieu, be it blues or folkloric music or salsa or reggae," saxophonist Steve Berlin said in a phone interview. "What we like to do is mix stuff up, and we mix up stuff in the mixed-up stuff. We'll do a reggae song with a different groove or a blues song with traditional folkloric instruments. We like finding odd combinations that work and bringing more than the generic style to it."
Berlin said those who attend the band's Gallo Center concert should expect a broad sampling of its work, including acoustic and rock songs and maybe a cut or two off its latest CD release, "Los Lobos Goes Disney," which came out in the fall.
The album features fresh arrangements of 13 Disney classics, including a Spanish version of "Heigh-Ho" from "Snow White," a spooky update on "Grim Grinning Ghosts" from the Haunted Mansion Disneyland ride and a laid-back rendition of "Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah." Recorded because it was part of their now-expired contract with Hollywood Records, it's their second children's album (the first was 1995's "Papa's Dream") and is getting some good early reviews.
The band members' grandchildren and Elvis Costello's 3-year-old twin sons gave it a thumbs up, Berlin said.
Perhaps the reason the band sounds so good is that the musicians' long history together.
David Hildalgo (vocals, guitar, strings), Louie Perez (drums, vocals, guitar), Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar) and Conrad Lozao (bass, vocals, guitar) met at East L.A.'s Garfield High School in the 1970s, with Berlin joining them in the early 1980s.
After beginning with Mexican folk, they switched to a more rock sound, gaining critical recognition for their 1983 release, "How Will The Wolf Survive?" The CD eventually ended up on Rolling Stones'
"500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.
All in all, the band has recorded 18 albums, selling millions of records and winning three Grammy Awards. It won for best Mexican-American performance in 1983; in 1989 for the song "Anselma" and the album "La Pistola"; and in 1995 for best pop instrumental performance for "Mariachi Suite" from the album "Papa's Dream"
While the band is now touring the country, the members still find time to pop into a studio wherever they are, to record their 19th album, to be titled "Tin Can Trust." Recorded for new label Shout! Factory, it's a collection of original, "straightforward" songs, Berlin said.
"The songs are simple and there's not a lot of complexity in the song structure," he said.
With virtually no radio play, Los Lobos continues to have a loyal following because of nonstop touring and quality work, Berlin said.
"A lot of it is because we've built friends and relationships over so many years," he said. "We have people who will come see us through thick and thin."