I figured I’d do a monthly ‘what I’m listening to’ kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it’s my blog! So there!
Have you (n)ever experienced Raul Malo? It’s possible you did – when going back a while he was a member of the Mavericks – a group deemed Country, but possibly too hip for that genre. If you weren’t Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson or the likes, you had a harder time making in-roads into radio and sales when they were around.
Like the Mavericks, Malo continues that style: Some Country. Part Latin influence. A little Tex-Mex. And more than a hint of Roy Orbison thrown in. His newest disk, Lucky One, doesn’t stray too far from what he knows or what he has done in the past. This is not a bad thing.
Malo can mix all those together and pull them off as being pretty original, as no one else out there is really putting those things together. Being Cuban, Malo brings authentic latin vibes to his music, but it is not overpowering.
Malo has always been a strong vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – even if he has never attempted to downplay Orbison as an influence. That is not to say that all his songs sound like an Orbsion redux, Roy is an influence, Raul is not a copycat.
There are a number of strong songs on the disk – and I’ve always been a bigger fan of the things that go more in 2/4 time. The 4/4 stuff is just fine, but I like what I like.
“Haunting Me” is hands down one of the best songs (if not the best) of 2009. The guitar work is good, but it is really the vocals and the vocal arrangement that he totally nails. I have played this song to death and it does not get old.
I really like the title track, “Lonely Hearts”, “Hello Again”. “Moonlight Kiss” is fun, but it is not a continual play at this point.
As the slower stuff goes, let’s get this right off the table: “Something Tells Me” is one of the best songs Orbison never wrote or released. Malo pulls it off flawlessly. He knows when to turn it on and not make it sound karaoke.
It is hard for me, sometimes, to listen to the slower stuff without hearing Orbison (“One More Angel”, “Crying for You”). I’m a Roy fan, so it’s all good. I think Raul finds it hard to sing slower songs any other way. Or maybe I can’t turn off hearing what I think I hear.
Lucky One is a pretty strong album as a whole, but if you’re only into downloading .mp3s and not an entire disk, and had to pick only one song, it should be “Haunting Me”. …but there are plenty of other good ones to chose from.