There’s no country music on the solo debut of Raul Malo, the former leader of Nashville’s Mavericks, unless the country in question is Cuba. Or rather, the island as muse of a young generation of Cuban-Americans who see their native Miami not as a place of exile but as their bilingual, bicultural land of opportunity.
Malo has seized that opportunity with vigor. Inspired by his participation in the Los Lobos–led Latin-roots project, Los Super Seven ("Today" is produced by Malo and Lobos/Seven member Steve Berlin), he brings his gift — the most comfortably beautiful male voice in roots pop right now — to songs painted in vibrant tropical colors, some driven by energetic South Floridian salsa rhythms, others by direct, emotional melodies, all with a Latin tinge. The title song offers an exuberant resolution to the Mavericks’ best song, "Dance the Night Away" — in "Today," the girl comes back. There’s one cover, "It Takes Two To Tango," originally done by Ray Charles and Betty Carter; here Malo’s unexpected but expressive partner is Shelby Lynne. That four of the songs are in Spanish is both essential and beside the point: Malo’s instinctive phrasing and zesty spirit so aptly suit his first-rate material that superficial distinctions like language are rendered moot.
Issue Date: November 8 - 15, 2001
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