After the stunning success of their 2003 self-titled release, San Angelo’s Los Lonely Boys settled in for a world-class sophomore slump. Sacred, in 2006, was formulaic and felt like a rush job; the record-buying public responded coolly. To a large degree, Forgiven (Epic) rights these wrongs: Its recaptured vitality makes it a much stronger record than its predecessor—and had the album stopped midway, this could have been the band’s finest (half) hour. The opener, “Heart Won’t Tell a Lie,” is an appealing guitar rocker; “Loving You Always” and the mea culpa of the title track are textbook slices of light summer pop; and Steve Winwood’s “I’m a Man” is an inspired cover choice. Though the production seems simple and unadorned, these songs feel carefully fussed over, and while the Garza brothers use virtually the same harmonies on every tune, their blues-rock blend is effective. Still, by “Cruel,” the album’s eighth track, the trio falls back into clichéd coasting. There’s plenty to admire about Forgiven, but weirdly, you can almost pinpoint the moment they seem to stop trying.
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