Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer Raul Malo has returned with his sixth studio album. He is best remembered as the leader of the alternative country band, The Mavericks. They released six studio albums during the course of their career (1989-2003), and had 14 singles reach The Billboard Magazine country charts. They were known for a sound that was just outside the country music norm.
He is now seven years into his solo career and has moved his base of operations from Nashville to Austin. This has allowed him to reconnect with his Latin roots and fuse them with his brand of country music. The result is Saints & Sinners, which explores new territory yet comes across as an expression of who he is as a person and musician.
He gathers a number of musicians who help connect him to his Tex-Mex roots by way of the Cuban neighborhoods of Miami. Augie Meyers of the Sir Douglas Quintet and The Texas Tornados lends his keyboard skills, and Sir Douglas’ son, Shawn Sahm, provides some guitar. The Trishas composed of Savannah Welch, Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster, and Jamie Wilson provides the backing vocals. One of the highlights of the album is accordionist Michael Guerra, who enhances the sound and lends an authenticity to it.
The opening title track announces this will be an entirely different Raul Malo release. After a long flamenco type opening, his guitar kicks in which returns the song to more familiar ground.
“Living For Today” is a social commentary song with some bite. Whether it is war or just living everyday oblivious to our surroundings, it is an excellent modern day protest type song.
There are a number of other songs of note. “Sombras” demonstrates that his booming tenor voice is in fine form and remains a formidable instrument. He takes the Los Lobos tune, “Saint Behind The Glass,” and makes it his own through an innovative interpretation. Songs such as “San Antonio Baby,” “Superstar,” and “Matter Much To You” all are true to the new direction of his career.
Raul Malo had produced one the more interesting albums of his career. Saints & Sinners is a nice trip into the mind and soul of a creative artist.