Clip: Raul Malo @ Three Rivers Arts Festival
Roots rocker Raul Malo enjoying life as a solo artist
Thursday, June 01, 2006
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
So long, Mavericks.
Last year, the maverick country band that bucked the mainstream lost
one of the most distinctive voices in the industry when founder Raul
Malo left the group. Fans, friends and industry analysts had seen the
split coming for years. Malo had been drifting further from the group,
releasing three critically acclaimed solo albums since 2001 and
launching well-received concert tours without The Mavericks. He'd been
with them for ...
"Too long," spat Malo in a recent telephone interview. "I freed myself
from that yoke about a year ago. I was just tired of being in The
Mavericks. I'm proud of what I did with them, particularly [the 1998
CD] 'Trampoline.' But after a while it's like, 'What am I doing here,
exactly? I seem to be doing everything here.' "
Now, Malo's still doing everything. But he's doing it for himself, and
he obviously loves it.
"You know, once you free yourself of the confines of the group," he
says, "you can pretty much do whatever you want."
So what does Malo want? He's a music industry maverick. His rich and
powerful tenor could have been applied to more classical pursuits, but
he knows when to turn off the vibrato, and he prefers country music.
With some production tricks and perhaps some more timely songs, he
could go the mainstream country route. But he likes traditional
country, roots rock and broader musical experimentation too much to
cram himself into the cookie-cutter. Born in Miami of Cuban-born
parents, he's always had an sweet spot for Latin and lounge tunes, and
he's put his personal brand on lots of early rock covers.
Malo will open the 2006 Three Rivers Arts Festival with a diverse set
of songs from his Mavericks and solo catalogs. His most recent CD, the
Peter Asher-produced "You're Only Lonely," ranges from the Everly
Brothers' "So Sad" to Willie Nelson's "Angel Flying Too Close to the
Ground" to the Bee Gees' "Run to Me."
Perhaps the closest run-in Malo has had with the country mainstream is
his duet of Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" with Nashville superstar
Martina McBride. It's a beautiful give-and-take arrangement that
showcases two of the best voices in the business. But is it a step
toward Hot Country radio waves? Hardly.
"I've known Martina for years," he says. "I'll tell you how this came
up. We happened to be working on different recording projects with the
same mixing engineer, and he said, 'Let's play her the song and see if
she likes it.' It's just that the timing was right. I've never tried
to make music just so radio would play it. It would be nice, but radio
is just a tough nut to crack, and I don't worry about it."
With: Autumn Ayers (6:30 p.m.).
Where: Point State Park, Three Rivers Arts Festival.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Three Rivers Arts Festival schedule