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Pop Music Review

Cesar Rosas' Solo Performance Reflects Early Lobos Traditions

April 13, 1999|STEVE APPLEFORD

Cesar Rosas is not coasting. He has played a role in the wild experimentation of recent Los Lobos, but he's also that band's traditionalist, spinning nervy tunes of raw Mexican folk and lowdown blues, providing an anchor of continuity to its increasingly bizarre trips.

So it was only natural that Rosas opened his solo show at the House of Blues on Saturday with the straight, rockin' blues of Ike Turner's "You've Got to Lose." While the 90-minute performance didn't carry the epic weight of a contemporary Lobos show, Rosas allowed himself more room to stretch out as a guitarist, layering bits of norten~o, surf and other styles over his core R&B.

The show, supporting Rosas' new solo album, "Soul Disguise," was often like a flashback to early Lobos, a time when the Blasters ruled the L.A. roots-rock roost. That movement has faded since its early '80s heyday, even as the sound of the Lobos itself has only expanded with time, and the countless side projects of its members have never quite threatened the band's solidarity.

Wearing his customary dark shades and with his black hair slicked back, Rosas looked like a casual figure with serious intentions. But he smiled broadly during energetic moments of norten~o folk, which his four-piece band (including accordionist Jimmy Baca) expanded like a crew of bebop players.

Just as powerful was the sly, blues-rock rumble of the Lobos original "Don't Worry Baby" and Rosas' newer "Tough to Handle." Along the way came fitting tributes to Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jimenez and New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair. This wasn't nostalgia, but commitment.

*

* Cesar Rosas plays Wednesday at the Galaxy Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, 8 p.m. $15. (714) 957-0600.

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