Del Castillo has strong original songwriting chops to go with the compelling musical mixture. The vocalists sing in both Spanish and English, and with the anthemic quality of some of the bigger rock pieces, a little Spanish will take you a long way. These musicians know the value of not being subtle sometimes: they do some big, brash, simple rock songs, and there's an echo of over-the-top Mexican balladry in their slower material (listen to the lovely "Perdóname" "Forgive Me" from their current Brotherhood album, with Ruiz's voice floating in passionate long notes over polyrhythms in the two guitars). But for each song that's straightforward there's one that adds something unexpected. They hark back to Santana's Latin blues-rock ("Barrio Blues"); they do zippy dance pieces with odd flavors ("Yiddish March"); they slow things down with unclassifiable instrumentals ("Mexican Lounge Lizard").
In all, after two decades of looking for the band to fill the shoes of Los Lobos, we just might have found it. Del Castillo comes to the Ark on Tuesday, August 8.
[Review published August 2006]