The current Los Lonely Boys album, Forgiven, may not have been a full-blown concert performance, but it's close enough for rock 'n roll. Rather than hole up in a studio and spend ages overdubbing vocals and instrumental parts, producer Steve Jordan aimed to make the whole process feel as much like a live gig as possible.
So Jordan set up a sound stage in Austin, Texas, hit the record button, and documented what happened when brothers Henry (guitar), Jojo (bass) and Ringo Garza (drums) did what they do best, play together as a band.
"We had recorded pretty much live on every record," Jojo Garza says of the band's two previous albums, a self-titled 2003 debut and the 2006 release, Sacred. "But then there was a little dissecting going on toward the end of them, and you were doing vocals or separate guitar or bass tracks — you know how it goes. This, however, was very free.
"It was kind of like we had a stage in there," he adds. "There were some lights. We had our full rigs going, Henry's guitar rig, my bass rig and microphones set up and monitors and no headphones — no headphones at all."
After all, Los Lonely Boys has always been a touring band first and foremost. The brothers started out playing in a group led by their father, who encouraged them to go out on their own after witnessing their rapid development.
Success came quick: Their debut album yielded a breakout radio single, the cheerful, easy-going pop-soul song "Heaven." It rose to No. 2 on Billboard magazine's adult contemporary chart and also managed to crack the top 20 on its "Hot 100" singles chart.
The song's lasting popularity helped kept Los Lonely Boys on the album chart for a full 76 weeks. To top that off, "Heaven" won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal.
But Sacred, solid though it was, failed to catch on. In retrospect, Jojo says the band felt rushed to finish the album.
"I think it's a really great album," he says of the band's sophomore effort. "But if you listen back to it, you can definitely tell the difference in how this album breathes."
Indeed, Los Lonely Boys manage to sound both energized and relaxed throughout the record, as the group once again delivers a wide-ranging mix of bluesy rock 'n roll, pop and soul, all spiced with a touch of the Garza brothers' Mexican heritage.
The group has been touring in support of Forgiven since the album was released back in July of 2008. A few months ago, the band put out a self-released EP, 1969, featuring five cover versions of bandmembers' favorite songs from that year.
While a full-length follow-up is still in the works, the EP gives the band that much more to draw upon for their current Acoustic Brotherhood Tour.
"We now have the luxury of having three albums out, so we've got a lot of material to pick from," says Jojo. "The show's going to change up pretty much every night. We're doing anything and everything we can, man."