Listening Kiko, Los Lobos’ 16-track sixth album, is like cramming a one-semester course in American folklore into a day-long class. Into the standard Lobos musical menu (the lilting, folkish story-songs sung by multi-instrumentalist David Hidalgo and the band’s barnstorming boogie numbers) Los Lobos add border-music instrumentals, a banjo-based tune, one song that could be the soundtrack of a ’30s Tex-Mex horror film, and a few dark, bumpy rockers that sound as if the band has been taking production tips from Tom Waits. Much of Kiko is lovely and charming: It’s imbued with a sense of dignity and pride in one’s craft, and the band has never sounded better. But the album’s length works against it; with so much going on, Kiko is little more than a collection of snapshots. Shying away from large-scale statements that would connect their cultural heritage to the world at large, Los Lobos have become miniaturists, painting quaint musical scenes that rarely amount to any sort of big picture. B

  • Music