Clever Disguise

Rosas sings, plays all the guitar parts and turns out to be a pretty good bass player. "I never really played bass," he says. "That's the way it started. I would do these songs and I would say, 'Oh, darn, I need a bass on that.' I would track the songs with just me and a drummer. They needed a bass. I wondered what it would sound like with a bass. So I just got a bass, and I started playing it, and, to my surprise, when I'd play songs for a few people, they'd say, 'What's wrong with that?' So, I got encouraged by friends."

Necessity often being the mother of invention, the result is a feel not generally found on such roots recordings, one in which the groove has a bounce and drive that come, I think, from a guitarist's mind rather than that of a person brought up to be in a rhythm section. Rosas has played with Lozano long enough to know how to stay out of the frontline's way, but he takes the bass parts in subtly different directions on several songs.

Soul Disguise also benefits from the presence of the great accordionist Flaco Jiminez on two Mexican-styled numbers, one of which, the bouncy "Angelito," Rosas wrote himself. Jiminez's work is, as always, a joy to experience; the accordionist's contortions of the expected melodic counterpoint are as thrilling as any of Rosas's rough-toned guitar solos. What's more, they don't just wait for a break in the middle of the song; Jiminez goes all over the place from the beginning and doesn't stop until he reaches the last note. Though I eagerly await the new Los Lobos album, Soul Disguise is a vast improvement on the last one. Colossal Head suffered from too much of the Froom-produced weirdness that Hidalgo and Perez have really bought into since the Latin Playboys began. Rosas stays grounded with music that excites the body and entices the mind. "Records like this are good," he said. "With so much other stuff going on, people tend to forget about the R&B and roots. It's a fun thing to do, and it makes for a swell ... " Rosas laughs mischievously, "birthday present.

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