One of my favourite CDs is by my favourite singer, Raul Malo, and it is called, as you probably have guessed, ‘Sinners and Saints’. It is a wonderful collection of songs, nearly all written by Raul, and all sung and played by him too. When I say ‘played’ I don’t just mean he played guitar with the rest of the musicians, but he actually played most of the instruments in the recording.
I always read the record sleeve/CD inner, and looking through the details of ‘Sinners and Saints’ I was amazed at Raul’s prodigious talent; there are nine songs on the album, he wrote three of them and co-wrote three and look at the number of different instruments he played as well as singing: drums, guitar, organ, percussion, bass, piano, tambourine, tron violin, synthesizer, requinto and ukulele. I have no idea what a tron violin is, but I think a requinto is a small guitar.
The lyric of a song is always important to me, and if words don’t fit or sound awkward or clichéed then they jar and can sometimes spoil a song for me; to my husband, a drummer and rock and roller since he was a child, the actual lyric fades in significance beneath all the musical parts, but as a writer (I won’t say word-smith) the lyric is really important to me. How clever it is to imagine in ‘Living for Today’ that his dog doesn’t “know his own demise” and that the dog is like “an old and brilliant sage“. The themes are also different from what one might imagine, and the little stories told in the lyrics of the songs, from the temporary nature of life, to a man contemplating his relationship as he’s “stuck outside of Dallas with the rain that’s coming down on my parade“. ‘Superstar’ is a reflection on the temporary nature of fame, and how quickly a person might be forgotten when they are no longer “flavor of the month“, and ‘Matter Much To You’ is a clever and rather wry observation of people “minding everybody’s business but their own” and how everyone is entitled to their own view and their own ambition.
There are three songs written by other people, and each fit perfectly into the repertoire of the album; ‘Til I Gain Control Again’, a heartbreakingly romantic and poetic song by Rodney Crowell which showcases Raul’s voice wonderfully; ‘Sombras’ by José Maria Contursi-Francisco and J Lomuto’ a beautiful Spanish song, and ‘Saint Behind the Glass’ by the very talented David Hidalgo and Louis Perez, a really haunting song which stays with you.
Raul’s voice is the star of the CD, he is like an actor in the way he puts expression and emotion into the words he sings, and sometimes I get carried away with just the sound, and the virtuosity of his talent; he has incredible range, swooping effortlessly up the scales and then plunging smoothly into the lower registers. I could liken his voice to the best wine you could imagine, with all the complexities and subtly of flavour, or a glass of the best, most perfectly pulled Guinness, strong, deep, dark, smooth… very smooth, but with a bite of bitternsss…
Why not just get the CD and listen and decide if you agree!