AFTER THEIR fluke number-one hit with "La Bamba" and their folkloric acoustic album, "La Pistola y La Corazon," Los Lobos is back to what it does best: playing all aspects of American music like the master storytellers and foot-stomping dance musicians they are.
The East L.A. quintet's new album, "The Neighborhood," opens with a grungy, Chicago-style 12-bar blues, follows with a fiddle-led Appalachian square dance tune and goes on to triumph in the garage-rock, honky-tonk, Southern soul and gospel genres. Los Lobos' command of all these American musical styles is so compelling and so rare that one has to reach all the way back to the Band for a useful analogy.
If Los Lobos' first full-length album, "How Will the Wolf Survive," was the equivalent of the Band's debut, "Music From Big Pink"; if Los Lobos' underrated masterpiece "By the Light of the Moon" was the counterpart of "The Band"; if Los Lobos' "La Bamba Soundtrack" paralleled the Band's oldies collection, "Moondog Matinee," then "The Neighborhood" (which features the Band's Levon Helm on a couple cuts) is the equivalent of the Band's "Stage Fright."
"The Neighborhood" is not quite up to the standards of the group's best work, but it's still a worthy effort that reveals the band's more raucous rock 'n' roll side.
LOS LOBOS -- "The Neighborhood" (Slash/Warner Bros.). Appearing Friday with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at Lisner Auditorium.