Raul Malo On Lucky One, his first album of original material in seven years, Raul Malo has shed his musical shackles.
"I have been fighting my whole life against people who want to pigeonhole music. We fought that in the Mavericks. I feel like I've got no restrictions anymore," the Grammy winner says. "I'm not really writing for any specific genre. I feel like I can do whatever I want."
Clearly, followers of Malo's eclectic career — both with the Mavericks and after — know he's always chafed at placing any confines on music. Or, as he laughingly confesses, "If most people do what I've done in my career, they'd be driving a taxi by now."
However, a talent as mighty as Malo's simply can't be denied. His glorious voice has been rapturously described by The New York Times as "exceptional" and The Wall Street Journal as "exquisite." Its crystal purity is simply unmatched by any other singer's today.
And a voice like his deserves a loving, sturdy melody to wrap itself around. Although completely contemporary, the music on Lucky One recalls the great tunes of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, made famous by Malo's musical heroes like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.
The songs on his Fantasy Records debut range from the silly to the sublime, by Malo's own design, and draw on his deep love of country, rock, jazz and Latin music. "Moonlight Kisses" features a playful male chorus and a snazzy tuba (!!), while songs such as "One More Angel" and "Rosalie" take on gut wrenching loss of life.
In an often coarse world, Malo wants to inject a little class: "As a culture, we've lost our poetry, we've lost our nuance. There's nothing subtle or implied about anything," he says. Equally, he wants to mark a return to melody: "I've always listened to melody first and, then, if the lyric is equal to the melody, that's a great song," Malo says. "Listen to ‘Tracks of My Tears,' ‘My Girl,' any Stevie Wonder song....I don't hear instantly recognizable melodies anymore. I'm a singer. There's not too many singers out there, that's why I still hold on to melodies."
That's evident on first single "Hello Again," a deceptively upbeat, swinging tale of heartbreak. "The person is saying, ‘At the end of the day, it's you and me, pal,' to his heart," Malo says. "I like to take semi-sad content and put it in an upbeat melody so it's not ultra depressing. It's like what you do to make kids eat their vegetables; you have to put some butter on it."
"One More Angel" was inspired by the death of the young daughter of one of Malo's friends. "I wanted to convey that how you lead your life is important because when you're physically gone, something stays behind," he says. "What you taught your children, how you loved your partner, that's all important."
Similarly, "Rosalie," which highlights Malo's sterling guitar work, was co-written with Allan Miller after Miller's wife took her own life. "That's really kind of a dark one," Malo says. "You feel sorry for anyone who does that, but there's a bit of anger [and] ‘if I could have done it differently, would you still be here.'"
The album's centerpiece is soaring closing track, "So Beautiful," an ultimately uplifting benediction influenced by events in and outside Malo's home. "There's a lot of strife in the air right now and it puts a strain on everything, and, certainly, my house is no different," he says. "One day I turned on the news and it was all horrible stuff. I turned off the TV, I came outside; it was one of those beautiful rainy mornings. I saw all the rain [wash away everything] and it was all just beautiful again. It's really about change and we're going to be okay, no matter what happens."
Malo wrote Lucky One over a two-year period at his Nashville home and was so happy with the result that several of his home demos appear as final versions on the CD. For the rest, he enlisted co-producer Steve Berlin, best known for his work with Los Lobos. "I trust Steve musically," Malo says. "Art comes first with him. That's the most important quality of all; nothing gets in the way of that."
Lucky One follows You're Only Lonely and After Hours, two CDs of cover songs written by many of Malo's favorite tunesmiths including Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Roger Miller and Willie Nelson.
"How could that not influence my songwriting on Lucky One," Malo asks. "It certainly had an effect on how I wrote for this. [There's] an appreciation for song structure, melody and lyric that these guys
After close to 20 years of making music, Malo is having more fun than ever. "I get to play exactly what I want. I have a great band. I have great fans," he says. "It's really fantastic. And the creative freedom I have now, I wouldn't trade that for the world." The liberation that true talent and vision bring has led to the ultimate freedom so lovingly evident on Lucky One: "I know that at the end of the day I can go somewhere with my guitar and someone will come see me."
Thursday, December 2
Show at 8:00 PM
Official Website: http://www.aladdin-theater.com/show_page.aspx?eventid=1987
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