Raul Malo

The most impressive and distinctive quality to Raul Malo's latest solo record, Sinners and Saints, isn't that he basically operated as a one-man band during the recording of the self-produced project. (Well, almost a one man band—the ex-leader of The Mavericks did have help from some stellar players, including Augie Meyers on the organ, but that's missing the point.) Playing an impressive amount of instruments is admirable, but it's the array of instrumentation that grabs attentive observers by their band-camp collars and garners praise. Added to the standard country repertoire were unique weapons such as the ukulele and Mellotron.

Which makes sense: Just prior to the recording of this album, Malo developed a deep appreciation for the intricacies of the ukulele. Indeed, he wasted little time implementing that new love into his labor. And, as such, the upcoming release boasts styles and influences that brazenly bounce across borders, sonically and geographically. It's all there, from Bakersfield honky-tonk to Spanish classics.

That much shouldn't come as a surprise, really. Malo's former group was banished from the American mainstream, thanks to a desire to honor his personal influences and to simply make the music that he would most enjoy. Sadly, the mainstream doesn't flow so well without the diverse Malo floating in it.

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