Pop & Rock
17 OCT 10 JOHN C. BRUENING
Since his early days with The Mavericks, guitarist/singer/songwriter/producer Raul Malo has mined his culturally rich and diverse upbringing in the Cuban neighborhoods of Miami, where various strains of rock, pop, jazz and Latin music had converged into a steaming, high-energy mix by the '70s and '80s. Malo's subsequent solo explorations of Americana and world music have further stoked the flames of his youth -- as evidenced on his latest recording, Sinners & Saints, an album that captures the best elements all the aforementioned styles plus many others.
The title track sets the pace with a staccato backbeat, twangy surf guitar riffs and a horn arrangement whose bravado is matched note for note by Malo's vocals. The melancholy "Til I Gain Control Again" plays more like a country ballad, but Malo's impassioned vocals -- part Roy Orbison, part Otis Redding -- leave at least one foot planted in soul and roots-rock territory.
Further in, "Superstar" is loaded with Tex-Mex roadhouse ambiance, thanks to assistance by the Texas Tornados and accordionist Michael Guerra, who reappears elsewhere throughout the set. The closer, a cover of Los Lobos' "Saint Behind the Glass," is carried along by mysterious lyrics, but the thickly layered percussion and harmony give the song a meaning all their own.
In the end, Sinners & Saints is perhaps Malo's most personal tale to date. "This really is about me and my point of view," he said. "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."