Music

Raul Malo: The Nashville Acoustic Sessions

Chip O'Brien

Raul Malo

The Nashville Acoustic Sessions

Label: CMH
US Release Date: 2004-03-30
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Fans of Raul Malo will, no doubt, appreciate this effort, however, those individuals led to believe by the title of the album, The Nashville Acoustic Sessions, that this CD is somehow, scaled back, rootsy, and free of the candy sweet, slick production that plagues most contemporary country will be sorely disappointed. If the creators of the album disagree, it is simply because they are too close or too much a part and product of the Nashville machine to escape its influence. One can almost envision this crew sitting around a bar somewhere close to Music Row in Nashville, smoking stogies, drinking martinis, talking about how they're going to finally make an album their way, break the mold and all that, the smoke swirling up and around their admirable, but idealistic conversation.

To begin, the song selection is presumptuous, as if all involved thought, somehow, they were gifted enough to take an old war horse like "Moon River" and turn it into something cool. Actually, many of the selected songs and performances are rather vanilla. Of all Van Morrison's wonderful tunes, they decided to record "Bright Side of the Road", one of Morrison's schmaltzier compositions.

It's not all bad, though. The album opens with the Roy Orbison classic, recorded by many (and most notably Linda Ronstadt), "Blue Bayou", which captures Malo at his most effective. Malo, often credited with superhuman versatility, is really just a solid crooner. Why fans and critics insist on turning him into something more than that is beyond reasoning. Rob Ickes, a phenomenal and in-demand dobro player, plays the opening licks flawlessly and continues to whine and wail throughout most of the album.

The high point of this collection of classics comes on the Louvin Brothers' "The Great Atomic Power", a song that possesses genuine bluegrass compositional genius. Malo sounds perfectly confident and at home on this catchy melody, as do all the musicians involved, particularly Ickes. Pat Flynn contributes mandolin, lending this track the authenticity some of the other tracks are found wanting. Malo sings, "Are you ready for that great atomic power / Will you rise and meet your savior in the air / Will you shout or will you cry when the fire rings from on high / Are you ready for that great atomic power?"

"Early Morning Rain", the Gordon Lightfoot classic, also falls into the genre of things that Malo performs well. There is limited interpretation, no attempt at innovation. Malo and company let the song do the work for them, which is smart, especially when singing a song as pretty as this one. Pat Flynn and Rob Ickes do a wonderful job with the guitars, keeping things real and melodic.

Though Malo can sing blue notes, as any decent singer can, Malo is not a blues singer, which is apparent on the Hank Williams's tune "Weary Blues from Waiting". Malo's voice is too pretty, too refined for this one, as it would be for many Hank tunes. The arrangement is also a bit lazy and uninspired. Everybody's playing the right notes but they all seem to be going through the motions.

Malo's version of Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" is another story, however. This is a beautiful, gentle, and heartfelt performance of a great song. Rob Ickes tears it up during the fade out at the end of the song, and Siedah Garrett contributes ethereal background vocals. Another track worth mentioning is the instrumental version of Jimmy Rodgers's "Waiting for a Train". Ickes, once again, tears it up on dobro as does Pat Flynn on acoustic guitar.

The goal, to record an album of classic songs acoustically, is a worthy one. Unfortunately, pulling it off is not as easy as it might at first appear.

Nice try, but no cigar.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.