They're Just for You: The Blazers

With all the rootless wandering of alt rock and precious pop music, it's mighty refreshing to stumble onto the Blazers. Now three CDs into their national career, these East LA natives have worked together on multiple musical levels for two decades -- with little or no fanfare. But their 1994 debut CD, Short Fuse (Rounder), was produced by Cesar Rosas -- one of East L.A.'s most celebrated musicians and a founding member of Los Lobos -- and won heaps of critical praise. Then they slung out East Side Soul (Rounder) to even greater critical reception. And now they're hot on the heels of the new Just for You (Rounder) and gaining yet more well-deserved acclaim.But the nitty-gritty of their career is only a rudimentary trace, a connect-the-dots match that goes nowhere in describing the Blazers' sound. They've got a slamming mix of honky tonk alt-roots rock, traditional Chicano music, and folksy, countrified acoustic music. Guitarists Manuel Gonzales and Ruben Guaderrama mix it up the way the Replacements' front line did way back when. Yet the tunes aren't about hand-wringing cultural anxiety or laconic angst or furious wind blasts. The Blazers come up with standard rock and roll observations paired against a rootsy, driving intensity that relents at key, telling moments.Those times away from the pile-driving rock of tunes such as "Just for You," the opener and title tune of their new CD, are spent spinning Cumbias that denote the band's trad background. Yes, this quartet is on the wearying road, playing more often than not away from East LA, but they are also drawing a community of Chicano/rootsy rock fans together like no one since Los Lobos has done. And in doing so, they're thwarting the homogenized rock and roll formula by both injecting tradition and ethnicity into the music. To boot, they rock with a spare, tight catchiness that begs to be caught live.

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