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 I've got no restrictions anymore," the Grammy winner says. "I'm not really writing for any specific genre. I feel like I can do whatever I want."
Clearly, followers of Malo's eclectic career--both with the Mavericks and after-- know he's always chafed at placing any confines on music. Or, as he laughingly confesses, "if most people do what I've done in my career, they'd be driving a taxi by now."
However, a talent as mighty as Malo's simply can't 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 singer's 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 Malo's 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 Malo'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.
Malo wrote "Lucky One" over a two-year period at his Nashville home and was so happy with the result that several of his home demos appear as final versions on the CD. For the rest, he enlisted co-producer Steve Berlin, best known for his work with Los Lobos. "I trust Steve musically," Malo says. "Art comes first with him. That's the most important quality of all; nothing gets in the way of that."
"Lucky One" follows "You're Only Lonely" and "After Hours," two CDs of cover songs written by many of Malo's favorite tunesmiths including Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Roger Miller and Willie Nelson.
"How could that not influence my songwriting on `Lucky One,'" Malo asks. "It certainly had an effect on how I wrote for this. [There's] an appreciation for song structure, melody and lyric that these guys certainly had."
After close to 20 years of making music, Malo is having more fun than ever. "I get to play exactly what I want. I have a great band. I have great fans," he says. "It's really fantastic. And the creative freedom I have now, I wouldn't trade that for the world." The liberation that true talent and vision bring has led to the ultimate freedom so lovingly evident on "Lucky One": "I know that at the end of the day I can go somewhere with my guitar and someone will come see me."