Twelve Songs of Christmas

Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin

October 10, 2019

Los Lobos have covered a lot of ground over the course of their more than four-decades-long career, but they had never recorded Christmas music. Earlier this month, they rectified that with the release of Llegó Navidad on Rhino Records. According to band member Steve Berlin, it was something that they had talked about and liked in concept but never got around to until Rhino approached them with the idea. In today’s episode, he tells the story of how the album moved from concept to completion, and what he learned about Christmas songs in Spanish-speaking countries in the process.

The conversation reveals as much if not more about Los Lobos as it does about Llegó Navidad. Berlin talks about how the band works in the studio, and how its place in the music world affects the decisions they make. The resulting album is typical of the band in that its integrity and dignity are as undeniable as its sense of fun. They’re adults, so Llegó Navidad is never silly, but they’re playful where they should be—“Feliz Navidad,” “Dondé Está Santa Claus”—and soulful when they need to be, as on “Christmas and You.” Because most of the songs come from the Spanish-speaking world, they’ll be fresh to a lot of American ears and arrive without the baggage that accompanies many versions of songs from the American Christmas canon.

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