Raul Malo's greatest commercial success has been as lead singer with the progressive country group the Mavericks, but since launching his solo career in 2001, Malo has displayed little interest in catering to the country audience, preferring to indulge his passion for Latin sounds and retro vocal jazz. The set list on 2007's After Hours might suggest to some fans that Malo is keen on winning back the country audience, since it features ten songs made famous by the likes of Eddy Arnold, Ray Price, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, and other old-school country & western heroes. But rather than treat these tunes as relics from Nashville's noble past, on After Hours Malo honors them as standards -- object lessons in great songwriting -- and interprets them as swinging pop tunes (as he reimagines "Cold, Cold Heart" and "[Now and Then There's] A Fool Such As I") or polished late-night supper club laments ("Welcome to My World" and "Crying Time"). The closest thing to a clear country influence on this set is the pedal steel guitar that supports the arrangement on Roger Miller's "Husbands and Wives," but if Malo has taken these tunes out of their traditional context, there's no doubt that he's captured their heart and soul as few singers have; the sadness and desire of "For the Good Times" has rarely been communicated with the strength Malo commands in his performance, and as playful as his take of "Cold, Cold Heart" may be, he gets the essence of the song on tape with accuracy and freshness. Anyone who harbors doubts about Raul Malo's status as one of America's best contemporary vocalists will be pleasantly surprised by the craft and maturity of After Hours, and he does wonders for the classic Nashville songbook at the same time; with any luck, this will be the first in a series from Malo of classic country interpretations.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming