Los Lobos are going home for Navidad.
The 46-year-old band’s first holiday album, Llegó Navidad, is a throwback, culling 11 decades-old Yuletide tracks from the Spanish-speaking world and linking them with the original “Christmas and You,” the one cut on which the Wolves play anything resembling mainstream American, blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll.
Cumbia, salsa, Tex-Mex and son jarocho music dominates the balance of the LP and recalls Lobos’ beginnings as a wedding band playing traditional music and early albums such as Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles and La Pistola y el Corazón.
Despite Navidad appearing in four titles (“Arbolito de Navidad” and the ubiquitous “Feliz Navidad” among them), Christmas in two (“It’s Christmas Time in Texas”) and the fat man in red referenced in “¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?,” Llegó Navidad (“Christmas is Here”) is refreshingly light on holiday clichés – occasional sleigh bells notwithstanding – and heavy on Latin percussion and traditional, unplugged stringed instruments and accordion.
With three lead vocalists in David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas and Conrad Lozano, joyful call-and-response stanzas and full complement of multi-instrumentalists, Los Lobos have crafted the rare, filler-free holiday record that belongs on the shelf with mainstays like A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Jethro Tull Christmas Album.