Raul Malo

After Hours – 2007 (New Door/Universal)

Reviewed by Don Armstrong

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The tipoff to Raul Malo's intentions here lies in his inclusion of the Ray Price hit "For the Good Times" rather than, say, "Heartache by the Numbers" or "Crazy Arms." This is '50s lounge music. But whereas Price's switch from harder-edged country caused great teeth-gnashing, Malo's, which officially began with last year's "You're Only Lonely," was a natural. If anything, his smooth intonation is an anomaly in the country realm. If the lead singer of the late Mavericks covers Johnny Paycheck material, that will make teeth gnash.

And if the outcome here is not quite as invigorating as some of The Mavericks' higher-octane material, this is certainly a pleasant listen. Malo covers country material whose incisors have shown through in other artists' handling - "Take These Chains From My Heart" and "Cold, Cold Heart," for instance. If not for Norah Jones' haunting interpretation of the latter, Malo's cotton-candy version might have seemed wholly worthwhile. The greatest passion comes through in the sidemen's work, particularly Jim Hoke's moody saxophone, which launches the opening number, "Welcome to My World," and weaves its way through much of the album. Malo's contribution, by contrast, illustrates memory rather than proving memorable.