Raul Malo

Today

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From the start, it was obvious that the Mavericks were comprised of a more interesting variety of flavors than most C&W hitmakers, and by the time they released Trampoline in 1998, the band had evolved from an eclectic country-accented outfit into an adventurous adult pop group willing to dip their toes into practically anything. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Raul Malo's first solo album doesn't have a single country bone in its body, but not everyone might have expected Malo to walk so boldly in a single direction. Malo began exploring his Cuban musical heritage with a few Latin-flavored numbers on the Mavericks' Music for All Occasions and Trampoline, and on Today he steeps himself in Latin rhythms, from the fiery dance groove of the title track and the sensuous tension of "Every Little Thing" to the jazzy sway of "Ya Tu Veras" (four of the album's 12 cuts are sung in Spanish, and Malo's estimably rich voice communicates beautifully in either tongue). Today bears more than a few hallmarks of Malo's earlier work along the way; the sly humor that marked the Mavericks' best work is evident in a playful duet with Shelby Lynne on "It Takes Two to Tango," his Roy Orbison-esque way with a ballad doesn't escape him on "Let's Not Say Goodbye," and Malo's fondness for lounge jazz takes the place of his Latin sounds on the closing track, "Since When." In terms of style and approach, Today isn't what most people might expect from Raul Malo, but one listen makes it clear the man has a great voice, sure instincts, and talent to spare -- and anyone who has ever listened to his music ought to be well-aware of that.

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