Monday, June 12, 2017

Raúl Malo at City Winery

Raúl Francisco Martínez-Malo Jr., known professionally as Raúl Malo, was born in Miami, Florida, where he spent many nights in neighborhood music rooms watching local flamenco-styled guitarists and dancers perform their dramatic zarzuelas. Malo co-formed the country rock Mavericks in 1989, becoming the band's lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter. The Mavericks began playing both the local punk and alternative bars and the trendy rock clubs of South Beach, and evolved into a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum band. The Mavericks disbanded in the early 2000s, and Malo pursued a solo career, leaning towards Americana music, and also participated in the Los Super Seven supergroup, which took a progressive approach to traditional music from Cuba, Mexico and Texas. The Mavericks re-formed in 2012. Malo's sixth and most recent solo album, Sinners and Saints, was released in 2010.

At the first of two shows at City Winery tonight, Raúl Malo performed solo, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and, briefly, a piano. Nearly every song Malo sang has been performed by the Mavericks, but here these songs were given a stripped down interpretation. He seldom finger-picked his guitar strings; he mostly strummed chords. This simplicity allowed his rich baritone to ring out stronger than ever, and accented how he may be gifted with the most beautiful voice in contemporary music. Regardless of the lyrics, these intense vocals made every song, whether in English or Spanish, sound thoroughly romantic. Many songs sounded like they belonged in the Great American Songbook and others displayed a doo-wop leaning, two methods that prize both timbre and range, and Malo carried them well. Malo's pinnacle moments may have been in his covers of "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City" (a Nilsson cover) and "Crying" (a Roy Orbison cover). Ultimately, a Mavericks show is longer, rocks harder and is more satisfying, but Malo was extraordinarily impressive as a solo artist.

Visit Raúl Malo at