Sinners and Saints

Raul Malo is speaking, or more appropriately, singing his mind. As the front man for The Mavericks, a member of Los Super Seven, a collaborator with dozens of artists and commander of a successful solo career, Mr. Malo has taken on many musical genres. Now he’s decided to release the album that best represent who he really is. Sinners and Saints was recorded by Malo at his home studio and features 6 original songs. It also highlights Malo as multi-instrumentalist as he takes on drumming, guitars, bass, keyboards, ukulele, Mellotron, and tron violin.

Sinners and Saints opens with the title track and sets the album’s tone; a lone trumpet plays for 20 seconds before surf guitar, upright bass, and organ kick in for an instrumental interlude that exceeds 2 minutes. Check the liner notes to discover the scorching guitar work is handled by none other than Malo channeling his best Dick Dale licks. The track also sets the standard for his lyrical attitude – “I have seen the world over/and know…/ there are more sinners than saints.” Malo’s world view and political opinions have never been this overt. Launching into “Living For Today” he cements his disillusionment, stating his disgust with the demise of “intellectuals” who are replaced by “good-word thumpers.”

Malo, who was born and raised in Miami’s Cuban community, has never strayed far from his Latin roots. Sinners and Saints explores the various genres that have influenced him. He takes on Rodney Crowell’s great country ballad “’Til I Gain Control Again” highlighted by Steve Fishell’s sweet pedal steel work. “San Antonio Baby” and “Superstar” are Tex-Mex rockers that feature former Texas Tornado organist Augie Meyers, accordionist Michael Guerra, and Shawn Sahm (son of Doug Sahm). Once again, these tracks point out what a great guitarist Malo is, a fact that is overlooked due to that attention placed on his vocals. Having mentioned them, Malo’s vocals are among the best in the business. He shines on the beautiful traditional Latin love ballad “Sombras.” Comparisons to Roy Orbison have followed Malo throughout his career. You’ll hear that sound come ringing through on “Matter Much To You” a simple love song tinged by Latin guitar and percussion, and organ.

Malo wraps the album by covering one of David Hidalgo and Louis Perez’s most poignant Los Lobos tunes. “Saint Behind the Glass” brings the album full circle with its hopeful tone and plea to keep the faith.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)