Malísimo: Raúl Malo silences the Mavericks’ ghosts with his best solo album yet

“Augie Meyers and tequila,” says Raúl Malo on the phone from Nashville when asked about the things that come to his mind whenever he thinks of San Antonio, a city that — as a lover of conjunto music — he knows well.

 In Spanish, malo means “bad,” “mean,” and, as the leader of the Mavericks — the baddest, meanest alternative country band of the ’90s — Malo established himself as a versatile, smart songwriter and the owner of a rare set of pipes. His clean, powerful tenor was once compared by The New York Times with Roy Orbison’s and legendary Cuban Beny Moré’s, and Rolling Stone put him in the same bag “with the best of ‘em: Sinatra, George Jones, Orbison.” No exaggeration for those who know his voice.

Still, the great tracks of his solo albums were marred by way too many corny Vegas-like numbers. The ghost of a Mavericks return was always looming on the horizon (the fine The Mavericks, their last studio album, was released in 2003), and despite mostly positive reviews, Malo solo seemed unable to match the edge of his group years.

Enter Sinners and Saints, released in October 2010. It is his best solo album to date, and the one that best resembles who he is, musically speaking: an eclectic, organic, in-your-face mix of Latin flavors, jazzy numbers, alternative country, blues, and even surf rock and roll.

“I’m not going to say it’s my best record, but it’s the hardest I ever worked on a record,” he said. “I worked on a lot of it by myself, so I didn’t have a lot of outside influence. It’s a pretty honest representation of where I am musically now. In this digital day and age we tend to sound a bit synthetic after a while, and I wanted to go back to basics. Two inputs, two mics, and that’s it.”

His voice sounds better than ever, and he knows it.

“Singing is my bread and butter, and I’m much more comfortable with how I’m singing now and how my voice is,” he said. “It comes from years of doing it. It just develops as you get older.”

For Saturday’s show, Malo (who also plays guitar) brings San Antonio’s Michael Guerra on accordion, Austin’s Kullen Füchs on keyboards and trumpet, Elio Giordano on bass, and John McTigue on drums. That’s his band now, and even though the history of music is filled with unimaginable reunions (see Pink Floyd and the Police), don’t expect a Mavericks reunion any time soon.

“`The Mavericks` is definitely something in the past,” he said. “I honestly don’t think it’s going to happen. I’m pretty busy right now.”

He says he’s on speaking terms with his former band, but, “of course, whenever something like that happens things are not always so easy or amicable.”

After the Mavericks’ break-up, Malo and the rest met in court to decide on royalties and the right to the name, which is strange given the fact that Malo wrote most of the songs and was the undisputed star of the band.

“Right!” he says. “They had their claim and I had mine, and it was settled the way it was supposed to be settled.”

Finally, is Augie playing with him on Saturday?

“Oh, man … I wish,” he says. “I’m going to call him up and see.”

Raúl Malo Band

Sat Feb 5, 10:30pm

(Amber Digby opens at 9pm)

Gruene Hall

1601 Hunter Rd, New Braunfels



(830) 629-5077

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