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Fans who know the songs by heart are nevertheless likely to discover something new in “Good Morning Aztlán: The Words, Pictures & Songs of Louie Pérez.”

That something is a subtle power that’s revealed when actively reading Pérez’s lyrics as opposed to passively listening to them inside David Hidalogo’s music on Los Lobos and Latin Playboys songs such as “Angles with Dirty Faces,” “Lemon ‘N Ice,” “Tin Can Trust” and “Be Still.”

“I believe you can capture the essence of something with just a few lines without having to hit (listeners) over the head with what you intended,” Pérez says. 

The complexity in Pérez’s simplicity is revealed across 263 pages where the words are laid bare and presented alongside the artist’s surrealistic paintings and drawings on facing pages. Human forms with prickly pears growing from their heads, skeletons inspired by La Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) and assorted animals and body parts illustrate the words, adding context beyond their familiar musical settings. 

It’s this latent complexity that caused the Blasters’ Dave Alvin to call Pérez, not hyperbolically: “A damn good, serious songwriter whose best work stands equal to that of … Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.” 

Short stories and essays are interspersed with Pérez’s lyrics. And while these are undeniably another window into his worldview and humanity, it’s the songs that are most revealing. 

“Good Morning Aztlán” is to be perused, rather than read sequentially, as only the final 30 pages – which collect interviews, remembrances and tributes to the author – resemble anything similar to a traditional book. 

And that’s perfect for an untraditional writer’s debut.