Following the demise of the remarkably successful Mavericks, former frontman Raul Malo released a pair of covers albums, applying his undeniably impressive pipes to tunes that all too often suffered from rather tepid production.
Lucky One, due out in March 2009, is an all-original collection that represents a return to form – Malo can still croon in a voice like liquid moonlight, but here he’s once again found some of the exuberance and energy strangely absent from recent outings.
The Mavericks helped bring Tex-Mex music into the mainstream by giving it a poppy sheen, and Malo mines much the same territory on the first half of Lucky One. The title track kicks things off with an infectiously catchy beat, while “Moonlight Kiss” is equally jaunty. “Something Tells Me” reveals Malo’s other influence, the late, great Roy Orbison, and “Hello Again” is big and bold and full of brassy bounce. “Ready For My Lovin’” slows things down a bit, but the bluesy beat is strong and punchy horns keep things interesting.
Although Malo himself is magnificent on “Crying For You,” the song isn’t terribly strong and could have faded out a little sooner, but “You Always Win” is a delight, swaying sweetly like a gentle island breeze, before “Lonely Hearts” returns to rollicking sing-along territory.
The disc’s momentum suffers somewhat with back-to-back ballads “One More Angel” and “Rosalie.” The former tries for touching but the results are rather maudlin, while “Rosalie” strives for atmospheric moodiness but misses the mark with labored lyrics and overly earnest delivery. (Although both songs are likely to find commercial appeal)“Haunting Me” is yet another delightfully dance-worthy workout, though, and Malo brings proceedings to a close with the haunting “So Beautiful,” the disc’s most successful ballad.
Malo’s voice remains a marvel, an astonishingly rich and expressive instrument that sounds great even on weaker material. And with only a couple of minor missteps, this outing may just gain him some overdue commercial success. Here’s hoping –when Malo sticks to his obvious strengths the results are utterly irresistible.