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Treats keep coming from Raul Malo

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., October 20, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Raul Malo has been a musical chameleon both as a solo artist and with The Mavericks, but given that the big-voiced singer was comfortable with country, Orbison, Latin, soul, lounge and a few other sounds in the space of one night, that's quite alright.

Malo is touring in support of yet another fine batch of songs, "Sinners & Saints." He started off the 110-minute show with the title track in throwback Spaghetti Western style with trumpet starting the proceedings before a twangy guitar took over.

In fact, the first six songs were from "Sinners & Saints." While Malo could be accused of taxing the audience with new material, it didn't matter. Of more concern was that Malo set a musical table tasty enough that there was something for anyone with passing interest to sink their teeth into. The music was easily accessible without at all being especially commercial. The songs sound familiar and are easy to latch onto.

Malo mixed the night up with songs from different phases of his career, including songs from his late, great band, The Mavericks - O What a Thrill and the closing trifecta to the regular set of Dance the Night Away, There Goes My Heart and I Said I Love You, a hugely captivating close.

As evidence of how the night went, the small dance floor got more and more crowded as the show went on. No surprise given the quality and energy flowing from the band.

Malo, of course, has always been blessed with a great voice. He seemed to sing without a ton of effort (that's not a criticism), but there was a lot of texture and adaptability there as well. Kudos were due to his backing band, particularly accordionist Michael Guerra, who was stellar throughout. His playing was featured time and again and contributed greatly to the liveliness achieved by Malo. Colin Fuchs on keyboards and the rhythm section of John McTigue III on drums and Jay Weaver on bass fleshed out the sound as well.

Asheville, N.C.-area resident Shannon Whitworth opened with a strong 40-minute set of Americana-styled songs. Her new CD "Water Bound" contains a lot of good material, and she put the music across in concert quite well.

Whitworth, who later would help out Malo on a few songs during his encore, was aided by very fine acoustic guitarist Jon Stickley and pedal steel player Mathew Smith. Interestingly, both Whitworth and Malo played ukulele.

That underscored the fact that this was not your standard musical fare, but it sure was all tasty.