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Raul Malo
Sinners and Saints

Review By Steven Stone

 

  From the opening trumpet notes you know that Sinners and Saints won't be your ordinary country CD. The title cut sounds like the offspring of the Ventures meeting Nino Rota at a seaside bar in Cuba and deciding to write the title tune for the next Clint Eastwood spaghetti western together.

Ex-Mavericks front-man and principal songwriter for over a decade, Raul Malo has adjusted from the life of a country super-star to that of a simple singer/songwriter nicely. "I went from a bus and two semis to driving up and down the Jersey turnpike with just a tour manager, a rental car, and my acoustic guitar." On Sinners and Saints we're treated to the fruits of his travels. Malo delivers Latin-tinged honky-tonk country tunes from dancehall rave-ups, through Freddie Fenderish tearjerker ballads.

Raul Malo's first, and still most impressive instrument, is his voice. He has the most wonderful sonorous timbre, sort of like Roy Orbison, but in a baritone range.

Recorded at Ray Benson's Bismeaux Studios in the heart of Texas, and assisted by Texas Tornado veteran Augie Meyers on keyboards, Shawn Sahm (Doug Sahm's son) on guitar, and Michael Guerra on accordion, it's inevitable that this album has a strong Tex-Mex flavor, even on pop/country numbers like "Staying Here." On the accordion-driven ditty "Superstar" Malo spins a lurid tale of music biz success and failure amid florid accordion arpeggios and a stomping polka beat. And, sure, there's a brass section.

Self-produced Sinners and Saints sounds as lush and full-produced as any mainstream Nashville release. Actually, it sounds better. On the last song on the album, "Hammer and a Nail," the soundstage is HUGE and there's an aura around Malo's twin lead vocals. It sounds like Buddy Holly singing a duet with Roy Orbison. Heavenly!

 

 

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