"Kiko and the Lavender Moon," a song from Los Lobos' 1992 album, "Kiko," sounds like it's a period piece, or a song that's rooted in a year that only current grandmothers and grandfathers remember. It has the feel of a place that we cannot easily get to any longer. It could be virtually impossible, even, a visage of a bygone time or of simple loss. It sounds as if it's from a time when, if you were hungry, you were thin and not the opposite. It seems to come from a place, or a night that's newly arrived - with the red and yellow pepper colors are getting pushed under the horizon by a hue more characterized by ravens and the abyss. It comes from a place at night when the ashtrays have the first blanket of cigarette ash, the joyful sound of caps popping off the tops of bottles is like music, people have gathered and there's a strong aroma of a big family-style dinner wafting out of the kitchen window, into the backyard. Guys are walking around a backyard that's been draped with cheap, hanging lanterns giving off the faintest of dappled light, the grass is a poor excuse for a lawn, now mostly just worn into a dusty, dirty tract. They carry two fistfuls of beer bottles - the glass of three or four bottles pushed tightly together in a muted clink and a deliberate, but brisk walk from the ice-filled trough back to the gang of empty-handers, his responsibility officially almost fulfilled.
The clinking of those beer bottles can be heard in the intro to "Kiko and the Lavender Moon," a splash of lazy, golden haze, a sort of understated jubilance - the story of a man who strolls and dances through nights, who "always sleeps 'til the sun goes down," before commencing with a new prowling, a new observance of his very own ability to do whatever he damn well pleases. He's a man who's purposefully slipped into a bout of tipsiness and he makes faces at the big black cat, defying the devil or dastardly luck surely bound to smack those smirks and tongue-waggings clean off his face. He's a man bound for his comeuppance, for a great leveling, no matter how nicely settled into his life's routine he might find himself - the idleness and the ego are set to strike amidst the calm. But is it, really? It seems as it should be a warning of sorts, but it just so happens to also put you in a pleasant place that feels like an eschewing of all bullshit, come hell or high water.
The East Los Angeles band of David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin has long been able to balance the stories of those who haven't much going for them - little money, sore backs from long hours on whatever dead-end job they're vigorously attempting to hold down - with a sense of "it could be worse," and with that, the characters in their songs make faces at the black cats they see during the nights, daring them to bring their curses. The group's latest album, "Tin Can Trust," features another batch of songs that follow these ordinary characters around, dealing with hassles of their days, dealing with traffic and less take home pay, knowing that they'll never find their easy street or be able to buy their women the size of diamond ring that they'd like, but they'll get by on charm, good food, love and the fearlessness of a stubborn son of a bitch.