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Los Lobos and The Chris Thomas King Band at Blues Under the Bridge show preview 

click to enlarge Los Lobos and The Chris Thomas King Band @ Blues Under the Bridge, With Grant Sabin & The Juke Joint Highball, Kerry Pastine & The Crime Scene and Vegan Wolf; Saturday, July 7, - 1:30 p.m., bluesunderthebridge.org.
  • Los Lobos and The Chris Thomas King Band @ Blues Under the Bridge, With Grant Sabin & The Juke Joint Highball, Kerry Pastine & The Crime Scene and Vegan Wolf; Saturday, July 7, 1:30 p.m., bluesunderthebridge.org.
If Chris Thomas King and Los Lobos don’t join up at this year’s Blues Under the Bridge for a medley of “La Bamba” and “American Man (In the Key of Free),” it’ll be a missed opportunity. “La Bamba” is, as you most likely know, the late ‘50s Ritchie Valens hit that returned to the top of the charts when Los Lobos covered it three decades later. “American Man,” meanwhile, is the opening track on King’s most recent album Hotel Voodoo, with strikingly similar melody, rhythm and vocal phrasing, albeit with more circumspect lyrics. It’s ridiculously catchy, soulful pop that in all truthfulness, should’ve been a hit.

For those who have yet to make his acquaintance, King is a Grammy-winning Baton Rouge native who’s released some two dozen albums and counting. Despite all that, he’s still best known to many for his role in O Brother, Where Art Thou as Tommy Johnson, a wayward young blues guitarist who sells his soul to the devil, seeing as how he “wasn’t usin’ it” anyway. King is also the son of blues giant Tabby Thomas, whom he name-checks on Hotel Voodoo’s “Tabby’s on the Bayou,” a feel-good R&B number that goes heavy on the stride piano. And while he’s earned more than his share of accolades as a guitar hero in the vein of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, the album is actually all over the musical map: The instrumental “White Folks Call It Jazz” is led by a clarinet player, who may or may not be white; “Rock and Roll Conjurer” is as swampy as a classic Tony Joe White tune; there’s even a touching rendition of Adele’s “Someone Like You.” (Note: You can also catch King and his band playing a July 6 pre-festival party at The Gold Room.)

Festival headliners Los Lobos of course need little in the way of introduction. High school buddies David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas and Louie Perez released their Mexican folk-influenced debut album back in 1978. Along with more musically aggressive Latino bands like The Plugz, they quickly went from playing backyard punk shows in East L.A. to hipster clubs in Hollywood, before venturing into a more mainstream direction with hits like “Will the Wolf Survive” and “I Got Loaded.” But that has never kept them from taking more artsy detours on albums like Kiko and side projects like Los Super Seven. Today, the three founding members are still together, continuing to earn their reputation as one of the best, and most eclectic, live acts out there.

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