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Arts and Music

Brothers Are Getting It Done

Los Lonely Boys rally back from near tragedy

On the cover of the new Los Lonely Boys album Revelation is a cartoon heart with a flame coming out of the top, a knife going through the middle of it and three roses around its middle. That imagery says so much given what this power trio has been through and what they’re about. Brothers Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza were playing a show at Los Angeles Downey Civic Theater back in February of last year when frontman Henry wound up tumbling into a darkened orchestra pit he didn’t realize was there when he rushed forward to slap hands with fans near the front of the stage. Despite the fact that he was able to get to his feet with help from his brother Joey, the band’s guitar-playing vocalist was in bad shape and had a narrow brush with death.

“It was a scary moment in my life. I fell into an orchestra pit that was like 12 or 13 feet down. To my knowledge, the stage went all the way out into the crowd. I wanted to shake hands with the fans and I ran without even knowing there was a hole there and next thing you know, I was landing on my face like an arrow,” Henry recalled. “My back bent in half and basically scorpioned — I’m lucky to be alive man. I didn’t know I was falling. All I remembered was a loud crunch in my back and face. I thought a bomb went off or something. I didn’t really understand what was going on. I was down there for a while and then JoJo and Ringo saw me and started screaming. Next thing I remember, JoJo was hoisting me up for them to pull me up on stage. The doctors said the fact that I was limber and not knowing that I was falling probably saved my life because I didn’t brace myself. It took me all the way up to now [to recover]. And I’m not 100 percent and I don’t know if I’ll ever be because I’m not one who wants to go under the knife for any means. It’s some pain that’s new to me but I’ve just got to be more careful than usual because you can get real hurt easy. I’m happy to be alive brother.”

It’s that gratitude and pious faith that’s kept these three brothers going ever since they were children being taught how to play by their musical father, Ringo Garza, Sr. A notable conjunto singer who toured around Texas in the ’70s and ’80s, the elder Garza went from playing with his siblings in their group The Falcones to having his three pre-teen sons become his backup band. Fast forward three plus decades later and the Garza boys have continued being the only musicians they’ve played with on a continuous basis. This cohesion has not only allowed Los Lonely Boys to have released eight albums including the newest one, Revelation, but forge a freewheeling sound soaked in the kind of rich guitar riffing associated with fellow Texans the Vaughan brothers and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. Best of all is the fact that the threesome have built upon Henry Garza’s considerable six-string prowess with killer harmonies to produce a sound that also embraces elements of soul, country and Tejano music. It was apparent right out of the gate when 2004’s “Heaven” became a smash hit and connected with secular audiences with its deep lyrics that mention the Lord, redemption and salvation. It’s carried right through to the new record, where songs like “Don’t Walk Away,” “See the Light” and “There’s Always Tomorrow” are wrapped in a veil of optimism and vulnerability while still riding on grooves akin to idol/frequent tourmate/friend Carlos Santana. That mindset is exactly what’s kept Los Lonely Boys going, according to Henry Garza.

“We didn’t want [the album] to sound like we were forcing it to go in any other direction except where the song wanted to go. That’s what our take on Revelations is because sometimes when you get in there and work, you can sometimes get lost and before you know it, everything starts to sound the same. With this one, we were blessed with being able to get a little of what we wanted over here. It was really fun and we’re really excited to because once we showed our parents and the rest of our family, tears came out of their eyes. At that point, we know it’s a hit for us,” he explained from a San Francisco tour stop.

The other wrinkle on the new album was some of the people Los Lonely Boys chose to work with. Don Gehman (John Mellencamp/R.E.M.) came off a self-imposed hiatus to specifically work with the Texas trio, while songwriting partners included noted Music Row lyricist Radney Foster, Ozomatli’s Raúl Pacheco and Black Eyed Peas collaborators George Pajon Jr. and Keith Harris. That versatility yielded gems like the conjunto-influenced opener "Blame It On Love" with its liberal use of squeezebox, the Isley Brothers-like swagger of "So Sensual" and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ stomp of "Rule the World." This fluid diversity in the band's sound is something Henry Garza firmly believes more musicians, particularly up-and-comers, should embrace.

"That’s one thing I have to warn all musicians and guitar players, is to not get caught up in one genre. You’ve got to be able to say if you wanted to, you could jump in and play with a 30-man orchestra," he said. "If I wanted to jam with Carlos Santana, I can. You can’t be afraid to do that. Or jump in with Megadeth or Metallica or the Black Eyed Peas or whoever. That, to me, is what makes a true artist or musician, someone that can jump into any ring with any weight class."

Los Lonely Boys will be appearing on March 25 at The City Winery, 155 Varick St., NYC. For more information, please call 212-608-0555 or visit www.citywinery.com