Friday, June 25, 2010
– Self-produced in his home studio, Raul Malo ventures into Tex-Mex music with "Sinners & Saints," out Sept. 28 on Fantasy/Concord.
The disc follows 2009's album "Lucky One," Malo's Fantasy debut.
The music is rooted in Malo's lifelong connection to Latin music but infused with his wide-ranging love of country, blues, jazz and vintage rock.
In a departure from his past albums, Malo took his tracks from his home studio in Nashville to Austin. He entered longtime friend Ray Benson's Bismeaux Studios and finished the album with the help of Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornado veteran Augie Meyers on the Vox Continental organ and, on the song Superstar, guitarist Shawn Sahm, Sir Douglas' son. The Trishas (Savannah Welch, Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster and Jamie Wilson) provided background vocals. Accordionist Michael Guerra, known for his work with the Tex-Mex Experience, lent further Tejas authenticity to the sound.
"This is the hardest I've ever worked on an album," he said. "This really is about me and my point of view. I realized that after I'd done it. It reflects really how I feel about a lot of things. That's why this is as much of me as I've ever put on a record."
The title track opens the record, setting the album's tone thematically and musically. From his boyhood and through his years of coming of age in Miami, Malo spent many nights in neighborhood music rooms listening to local artists perform their Flamenco zarzuelas. Malo wrote "Sinners & Saints" by conjuring up those nights in his head, and playing his electric guitar with a cross between Flamenco melodicism and retro surf-twang. "It has no chorus, no repeatable line," he said, "And it's long. Purposefully long."
The second track, "Living for Today," ventures into socio-political territory against an upbeat sound that includes chiming guitars, Meyers' Vox organ and the Trishas' backing vocals. In a musical space that includes the biting observations of Rodney Crowell, James McMurtry or Todd Snider, this song is a welcome addition. Speaking of Crowell, Malo provides a heart-felt reading of his modern-day standard "Til I Gain Control Again."
Malo recorded an original song called Superstar with several pals from the Texas Tornados. That and several other tracks feature Guerra's Tex-Mex accordion, as in San Antonio Baby. He also covers Los Lobos' Saint Behind the Glass.