CD Review of Raul Malo’s incredible “Sinners & Saints”
I can’t remember how long ago it has been now, but it has been long enough that I can’t remember how long it has been. However, if I had to guess, it has probably been somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty years.
My good friend, as in friends since we were kids, Ric Lavender said, “Man! Have you heard The Mavericks? They have the greatest singer I have ever heard!”
One thing you have to know about Ric is he was, as I remember, more of a “Deep Purple” kind of a guy. Therefore, when he said The Mavericks, I just assumed it was going to be some “hard rock” band. I could not have been more wrong.
The Mavericks were “country” artists, but of the “real” country or “roots” country mold. Not of the new country, even though they did garner quite a bit of National attention. They won Grammys, they received a fair amount of attention from main stream country radio stations, but one thing was different about these new kids on the block back in 1990 or 1991 was that they crossed many boundaries. They were true crossover country artists.
Americana? Probably not, not at that time anyway. Or at least it seemed that way, until you really started listening to them. They had a string of popular tunes and won many awards, especially between the years of 1994 and 1996, from “Top Vocal Group” from ACMA, and a Grammy in 1995 for “Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal”.
That is what The Mavericks were. Yes, they were a very tight band and it took everyone in the band to make it that tight. Nevertheless, those vocals by Raul Malo are what made the band stand out in the spotlight. Back then, he had one of the strongest and most recognizable voices in the business. Back then, you could sometimes still tell one artist from the next by listening to them, and Mr. Malo was, easily, one of the greatest country singers of that time.
Did I say “was”? I meant “is”! Even though The Mavericks went their separate ways in 2003, one thing has remained a constant. Raul Malo. Proof of this would be in his latest release, “Sinners & Saints”. I am absolutely going to go out on a limb and say, “It’s a masterpiece”, and you can definitely quote me on that if you like.
When you listen to the record, you can see where he has drawn from his Cuban roots and added that dynamic to the recording by listening to the first few bars of the title cut, “Sinners and Saints”. The interesting thing about this particular tune is the “surf” sound from the guitar, along with the Latin beat. The solo trumpet used in the intro is captivating. Then Mr. Malo takes over. His vocals are as strong if not stronger than they have ever been. Mesmerizing is a great word to describe what is penetrating your inner ear.
Other songs on this outstanding recording are “Living For Today” with special guest, Augie Meyers and his ever-present Vox organ. The energetic “San Antonio Baby” with its Tejano sound prevailing. It is followed by a very soulfully sung rendition of Rodney Crowell’s “Til I Gain Control Again” while still remaining true to its country roots, via the prevailing steel guitar lying just beneath Mr. Malo’s ultra smooth vocal. Then comes the exceptionally jazzy ballad “Staying Here” with restrained positivity prevailing it all. “Superstar” where guests from the legendary Texas Tornados, Shawn Sahm and Michael Guerra add their extraordinary talents. It is a tune that could easily reside on a future Tornado’s record. I could not help but feel The Texas Tornados co-founder Doug Sahm’s spirit on this wonderfully upbeat tune, while still expressing a certain displeasure for some who most likely demanded much from Mr. Malo in the past, who became conveniently invisible later on.
Raul Malo’s self-produced “Sinners & Saints” is one of those recordings that make it virtually impossible to find a “favorite” song. They are all just so extraordinarily good.
If you haven’t done so already, ‘Rebel’ Rod says, “definitely check this “Masterpiece” out! You will be glad you did.