Friday, February 03, 2006

Raul Malo -- The Nashville Acoustic Sessions

Raul Malo hasn't put out a new CD in years but he continues to tour with a solid line up of his Mavericks material and top picks from 2001's "Today" and 2004's "The Nashville Acoustic Sessions." Many fans of his work with the Mavericks were worried when he left the band to pursue his own career; however, the worry didn't last long. He still does his solo shows and collaborates with a slew of other artists so perhaps we get the best of both Malo's. He has also performed on a number of collections such as "Los Super Seven" and "Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster" which features Raul's incredible rendition of the title track.

I got to see Raul perform at Dowe's on Ninth last September as part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trusts "CD Live" series. This was another artist I knew very little about aside from the Mavericks hits "Dance the Night Away" and "What a Cryin' Shame." My girlfriend gushed about Raul and commanded me to see his live show. Anyone that can do justice to Pittsburgher Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" must be okay, right?

He's extremely personable on stage, even going so far as to accept a shot of tequila a very drunk woman bought for him (he saved it for after the show). The women went nuts as soon as he started singing in a velvety smooth tenor reminiscent of Roy Orbison. His voice, while deeply toned, soars through the microphone in a measured tremble. Raul did not have a backing band on this tour; just an accompanying piano player and his acoustic guitar.

Raul debuted as lead singer for the Mavericks in the early 90's. He was born in Miami, Florida, to Cuban parents and developed a deep affection for classic country artists like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. "What a Crying Shame," released in '94 turned platinum a year later and launched the phenomenon known as The Mavericks. The Latin vibe started to seep into the Mavericks songwriting in the late 90's. Raul has joked that he's probably the only Cuban American to stand on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. The Mavericks took home a Grammy in 1995 for "Here Comes the Rain."

Word has it that his new CD "You're Only Lonely" hasn't surfaced yet because he's still shopping around for a label. Incredible! Who wouldn't want this guy on their line up? He's doing some touring now with new songs from the CD so keep your eyes open for a performance near you. He covers Etta James, Willie Nelson, the Bee Gees, and others as well as the title track cover of J.D. Souther's song. I've also heard he'll be releasing "Live in '05" featuring his live performances sometime this year.

You can find his songs on Amazon (I don't know who developed their personal sites but they aren't very user friendly) under the Mavericks or Raul Malo. He's a well-kept secret in a long list of outstanding alt country artists flavored with a healthy dollop of Latin music. You'll want to sing along and dance the night away with the songs "I Want to Know," "What a Crying Shame," "Every Little Thing About You," and "I Said I Love You."


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