Raul Malo

Lucky One

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Raul Malo has kept a certain distance from his creative past in the Mavericks on his solo releases, choosing to focus on his pop, jazz, or Latin influences rather than the more country-accented tunes that put his old band on the charts. However, Malo's sixth solo effort, Lucky One, more clearly recalls his work with the Mavericks than anything he's done since the group called it quits. Admittedly, this set suggests the style of Music for All Occasions and Trampoline, where Malo and his bandmates began throwing off the restrictions of traditional Nashville record making with gusto, and anyone expecting a sequel to What a Crying Shame is going to feel let down. But the deep, twangy guitars of "Something Tells Me" and "Crying for You" call up the shade of Malo's most famous work, and though "Hello Again" and the title cut are more strongly pop-influenced, his soaring Roy Orbison-influenced vocals will certainly please anyone who loved the way he sounded on his hits with the group. Don't get the idea that Malo has turned away from the stylistic shape-shifting of his more recent discs; the easy swagger of "Moonlight Kiss" makes him sound like the lost member of the Rat Pack, he slinks through some slow supper club blues on "Ready for My Lovin'," delivers a lively Mex-Tex two step on "Lonely Hearts," and puts his heart on his sleeve with "So Beautiful," the love ballad that closes out the set. Producer Steve Berlin dresses these songs in clever arrangements that honor Malo's many musical moods and give the melodies a satisfying, emotionally honest core that holds this album together. Lucky One isn't the Mavericks, but it's closer to what made that band great than anything Malo has recorded in a while, and shows that he remains a great singer and powerfully imaginative musician regardless of the context.

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