Los Lobos - from left, Louie Perez, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas and Steve Berlin; bassist Conrad Lozano is not pictured.

Los Lobos' rootsy sound always explores rich terrain, and that's the case on "Tin Can Trust," the group's first collection of new original material in four years.

The East Los Angeles quintet draw on their Hispanic heritage to play a cumbia and norteño. They look north to cover the Grateful Dead, summon the spirit of 1950s rock and reach back to the 16th century to sing about an Indian peasant's vision of the Virgin Mary.

Ambitious? Yes. But they pull it off, transforming a potential hodgepodge into a seamless collection. The band chose a modest studio in their hometown for the recording sessions, working up material on the spot, and the collective approach produced a particularly engaging set of songs.

Highlights include the Dead's "West L.A. Fadeaway," the bluesy instrumental "Do the Murray" and singer-guitarist Cesar Rojas' two original Spanish-language tunes, "Yo Canto" and "Mujer Ingrata." Lyrically the most creative song is the closing "27 Spanishes," which wryly recounts Spain's conquest of Mexico in 4 minutes, 34 seconds.

Los Lobos have had the same lineup for 36 years, and yet there remains a vitality and freshness to the music that younger acts will never match.

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The blank canvas the band brought into the studio inspired some terrific guitar solos, including on "West L.A. Fadeaway," where Rojas and David Hidalgo take turns tapping their inner Garcias. The song wins bonus points for rhyming pathetic with copacetic.

CD REVIEW

Los Lobos, "Tin Can Trust" (Shout! Factory)