On Lucky One, his first album of original material in seven years, Raul Malo has shed his musical shackles.
"I have been fighting my whole life against people who want to pigeonhole music. We fought that in the Mavericks. I feel like Ive got no restrictions anymore," the Grammy winner says. "Im not really writing for any specific genre. I feel like I can do whatever I want."
Clearly, followers of Rauls eclectic career both with the Mavericks and after know hes always chafed at placing any confines on music. Or, as he laughingly confesses, "If most people do what Ive done in my career, theyd be driving a taxi by now."
However, a talent as mighty as Rauls simply cant be denied. His glorious voice has been rapturously described by The New York Times as "exceptional" and The Wall Street Journal as "exquisite." Its crystal purity is simply unmatched by any other singers today.
And a voice like his deserves a loving, sturdy melody to wrap itself around. Although completely contemporary, the music on Lucky One recalls the great tunes of the 50s, 60s and 70s, made famous by Rauls musical heroes like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.
The songs on his Fantasy Records debut range from the silly to the sublime, by Raul's own design, and draw on his deep love of country, rock, jazz and Latin music. "Moonlight Kisses" features a playful male chorus and a snazzy tuba (!!), while songs such as "One More Angel" and "Rosalie" take on gut wrenching loss of life.
In an often coarse world, Raul wants to inject a little class: "As a culture, weve lost our poetry, weve lost our nuance. Theres nothing subtle or implied about anything," he says. Equally, he wants to mark a return to melody: "Ive always listened to melody first and, then, if the lyric is equal to the melody, thats a great song," Malo says. "Listen to Tracks of My Tears, My Girl, any Stevie Wonder song . . . I dont hear instantly recognizable melodies anymore. Im a singer. Theres not too many singers out there, thats why I still hold on to melodies."
Thats evident on first single "Hello Again," a deceptively upbeat, swinging tale of heartbreak. "The person is saying, At the end of the day, its you and me, pal, to his heart," Raul says. "I like to take semi-sad content and put it in an upbeat melody so its not ultra depressing. Its like what you do to make kids eat their vegetables; you have to put some butter on it."