Maverick goes solo
Reviewed April 2009
By Raul Malo
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Former Mavericks’ front man Raul Malo has the kind of piercing tenor that recalls that of immortals like Marty Robbins and Roy Orbison. Since leaving that country group, he has released several discs that cross genres into roots rock, salsa and middle of the road pop. His new album, "Lucky One," is no exception.
Malo has a substantial following among Latino listeners, having appeared on several top Latino artists' discs and sang several cuts on his 2001 "Today" disc in Spanish. Here, he stays with English throughout, but the opener and title tune has a punchy, horn-driven mariachi feel through the chorus, transforming surf/rockabilly verses that here (and on many other cuts) mimic the sound and feel of Chris Isaak.
"Moonlight Kiss" is an odd choice, a salsa-inspired tune that sounds like a show tune from a nightclub show, complete with background vocalists answering the lead vocalist in the verses. "Something Tells Me" gives Malo a chance to push his pipes into overdrive, a mid-tempo tune with a lovely melody that evokes Orbison, helped along by nice touches of Duane Eddy-style guitar licks pushing the tune forward. While "Hello Again" rocks with a catchy hook, "Crying for You" takes another trip down Orbison Avenue, a slow ballad trying for the bombastic build of Ol' Roy's mini-operas of the late '50s. One almost misses the strings and chorus of background singers that could have built the crescendo of the tune a bit more.
"You Always Win" goes for a light jazz feel, with no illusions about not sounding like a pure pop song or even something from a '60s Dean Martin record. "Lonely Hearts" and "One More Angel" are Isaak revisited, but this isn't necessary a negative. Malo has a similar vocal range, his band and arrangements are similar, and these songs and some of the others here use the same themes as Isaak has in many of his best discs. "So Beautiful" closes matters with a lush arrangement and strings in another showcase for Malo's vocal range. The material may hit and miss here, but this guy has one hell of a voice.
"Lucky One" is far from a country record, and for those expecting to hear anything resembling the old Mavericks' sound, it isn't here. What it does feature are some tasty singing and very well-crafted songs by a truly gifted singer, which isn't that easy a thing to find in this day and age.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.