Raul Malo – Sinners & Saints

January 01, 1970



(Fantasy Records)




There had to be a day when a teen-aged Raul Malo woke up
suddenly possessing that voice, that
roaring tenor which rattles around inside his chest and comes out sounding
astonishingly beautiful every time he opens his mouth. He wasn’t born with it,
of course – every boy goes through a change of voice, and Malo just got luckier
than most. Of course, once possessing the instrument, he had to master it, and
that’s where his life-long love of all things musical came in. Whether with the
country hitmakers the Mavericks, or on six previous solo albums, Raul Malo has
crooned, cried, yelped, rocked, and soared dozens of delicious songs over the
last two decades.


His latest album, Sinners
and Saints
, builds on the delights of last year’s Lucky One. As much fun as it was to hear him tackling middle of the
road standards and country classics in the mid-‘00s, the ideal Malo albums
always have at least a few upbeat danceable numbers.  This time, most of the dancing is
Latin-tinged, though he drops in a little bit of rock’n’roll as well. The
record opens with almost 3 minutes of instrumental music, an exhilarating blast
of flamenco-based exotica, before Malo begins to sing of the difficulty of
telling the difference between “Sinners & Saints.” Augie Meyers (of the Sir
Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes) lends a Tex-Mex blast to a couple of
songs, especially “Living For Today,” a somewhat ironic affectation of ignoring
contemporary events, and “Superstar,” a fun dig at those who don’t seem to remember
the former singer in a very popular band. “San Antonio Baby” sounds like a
Mexican garage band in the heyday of 60s rock’n’roll, which is to say it’s a


An absolutely riveting version of Rodney Crowell’s classic
“‘Til I Gain Control Again” delivers the country music goods, with Malo showing
off every bit of the nuance he can wring with that gorgeous tenor. There are
moments here where he recalls Roy Orbison, but Orbison never let his voice
crack with direct emotion the way Malo does on the lines “Out on the road that
lies before me now / There are some turns where I will spin.” Malo also
interacts beautifully with the pedal steel guitar on this track.


Coming completely out of nowhere is the album closer, a
stunning rendition of Los Lobos’ “Saint Behind the Glass.” When Los Lobos
released Kiko back in 1992, the songs
flowed together so well that most of them seemed indelible, as complete in
their own mysterious ways as could be. None fit this description better than
“Saint Behind the Glass,” a wistfully evocative tale of .  .  .
well, essentially nothing more than waking up in a warm house in a room with
the picture of a saint on the wall. Los Lobos sang it matter-of-factly, over a
sparkling but thin accompaniment of Mexican stringed instruments. Malo brings a
little more sense of graceful gratitude to it than the original, and the richer
instrumentation conjures up extraordinarily warm feelings here.  For Los Lobos, this song was a centerpiece;
for Malo, it is a stopping point, a feeling of peace and sustenance which
cannot be disturbed by yet another song.


There are longer albums out there, but Raul Malo packs a
whole world of emotional resonance into only nine songs taking less than 40
minutes. With the voice he owns, Malo doesn’t have to show off. He merely has
to paint the musical pictures in his head, and the effect will be lovely.


DOWLNOAD:  “Sinners and Saints,” “Saint Behind the
Glass,” “San Antonio Baby” STEVE PICK

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