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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Singer-songwriter Raul Malo has been a longtime fixture on the alternative country scene, beginning as a leader as The Mavericks and later as a solo artist. But his new CD, "Sinners and Saints," is a reminder that Malo's music covers a wide waterfront.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: It touches on everything from Roy Orbison, Flaco Jimenez and Glen Campbell, to guitar runs that mimic those on the soundtrack of "Pulp Fiction."

(Soundbite of song, "Sinners and Saints")

Mr. RAUL MALO (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) When I (unintelligible). Thank the Lord for the day...

HANSEN: Malo recorded the basic tracks of his new CD at his home studio in Nashville, then went to Austin, Texas to spice them up with a Tex-Mex sound. There's also a nod in the direction of his Cuban roots in Miami.

Raul Malo's been a guest on our program before and we're happy to welcome him back. He joins us from the studios of WPLN in Nashville. Hello again, Raul.

Mr. MALO: Hi, how you doing?

HANSEN: Very well, thank you. When you were on the program before, we were talking about your CD, "Lucky One." And you told us that when inspiration strikes you, you lunge for the nearest - the notebook, the tape recorder, bar napkins, your kids' forearms. Is there a particular song on this new CD that came from one of those aha moments?

Mr. MALO: Yeah. You know, I would say that probably "Sinners and Saints" was one of those kind of moments, you know, where I just kept playing this riff and I had no musical ideas and no lyrical ideas. And then one night it hit me and that was it.

(Soundbite of song, "Sinners and Saints")

Mr. MALO: (Singing) We will be with so much inside. It can happen to me, it can happen to you, it can happen to me, it can happen to you, oh...

HANSEN: Tell me a little bit about your vocal style. I read that you listened to a lot of opera as a kid. You know, when you take your tenor up to those high notes, I mean, do you imagine yourself as paparazzi?

Mr. MALO: Well, I...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Maybe Placido Domingo, OK?

Mr. MALO: Yeah. You know, I sure love to sing a lot of those Italian arias and they're just some of the most beautiful melodies ever written. And so I certainly admire those guys and I certainly, I feel fortunate to have the voice that I have. But opera is a really strict discipline. And, you know, I don't know that I could do that on a serious note. I mean, that's a whole other level of competence. But I appreciate the vote of confidence.

(Soundbite of song, "")

Mr. MALO: (Singing in Spanish)

HANSEN: You said that a great melody is the most important part of a song and you pointed to people like, oh, Sinatra, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, I mean, all the melodies that they sang. The song, "Staying Here," sounds like something that came right out of the Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell...

Mr. MALO: That's right, yeah.

HANSEN: ...songbook, yeah, from back in the day.

(Soundbite of song, "Staying Here")

Mr. MALO: (Singing) Stuck outside of Dallas where the rain is coming down on my parade. And I know when it's going to let up, got me thinking here about the love we used to make...

HANSEN: So, you were doing some channeling on this one, huh?

Mr. MALO: Absolutely. I think that that song in particular, you know, I'd had that one for a while, and when you have a song in your, you know, your list of songs that you've demoed up or you've recorded or you've written and for some reason, you know, it didn't make a record, you know, it starts to get a little bit of a question mark on it.

And not from anybody in particular, 'cause a lot of people, whenever they would hear the demo, whatever, they said, oh, you got to put that on a record and I was like, oh, I wasn't sure. And then I just went, you know, I'm just going to record it and see what happens. And, you know, after a while it's like, yeah, it's a nod to the Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell, 1968 Elvis kind of era and I'm OK with that.

(Soundbite of song, "Staying Here")

Mr. MALO: (Singing) And now I'll be right by your side and hope that things will turn out right, but I'm staying here with leaving on my mind. But now I'll be right by your side and hope that things will turn around right, but I'm staying here with leaving on my mind. Leaving on my mind.

HANSEN: Is there a melody line that you take great pride in on this recording?

Mr. MALO: Yeah, sure. I think "Staying Here" is a halfway decent melody. And as far as melodies, I think, "Matter Much to You" is probably my favorite on there. But, you know, that's just my personal choice.

(Soundbite of song, "Matter Much to You")

Mr. MALO: (Singing) I don't understand what people fuss about. Seems like they're all angry all the time. They mind everybody's business like it was their own. I can barely a time for mine...

HANSEN: Tell us a little bit more about "Matter Much to You," 'cause there are very thoughtful lyrics here.

Mr. MALO: Well, thank you. You know, that came about really as an answer to all this craziness that's going on and all these attitudes of intolerance that we're seeing everywhere in our country. People are up in arms about certain groups. And one week it's either Mexicans, the next week it's Muslims and, you know, there's all this fear and there's all this anti-gay movement. And I'm not hearing a voice of reason come out of too many pundits.

And I wanted to write a song that, you know, at least was an answer to some of that craziness. And I don't expect everybody to agree with me but I certainly wish that we were a bit more tolerant and not as fear-hyped as we seem to be nowadays. And so that song is a response to that.

(Soundbite of song, "Matter Much to Me")

Mr. MALO: (Singing) You may not share my point of view, (unintelligible) I do. I hope that it doesn't matter much to you. I hope it doesn't matter much to you. I hope it doesn't matter much to you.

HANSEN: Do you support, for example then, say, Jon Stewart's rally to restore sanity on the Mall?

Mr. MALO: Wholeheartedly. Is he serious about that? 'Cause if he is, I'm going.

HANSEN: Yep, he is. And Stephen Colbert is serious too and he'll be on the other side of the Mall.

Mr. MALO: That just...I'm so there. Now, that's a rally I would gladly attend.

HANSEN: You know, I don't think a lot of people know this, but it's actually fortunate that you completed the recording when you did because you lost some of your favorite instruments in the Nashville floods this past spring, which were just horrible. I understand you lost a 1962 Gibson J45 acoustic guitar.

Mr. MALO: Well, you know, it's funny about that one. I'm sorry that that's the one that they said I lost. That's actually, that's one of the ones that made it.

HANSEN: Oh, excellent.

Mr. MALO: Yes. And it's funny, I think that, you know, that that guitar in particular, we had had a, you know, it was a horrific day when we were finally allowed to go into the storage facility that had all the stuff in. And, you know, Vince Gill lost a lot of stuff. We helped pull out some of John Fogerty's Les Pauls, you know, stuff that had been played on "Here Comes the Rain." And, you know, and you're just going, oh my gosh, you know, heartbreaking.

And so we get to my locker and, yeah, sure enough, all my guitars had been underwater. And so that's not a pretty sight. And we start taking them out one by one and just kind of assessing the damage. And one after another was just a heartbreaker. You know, they had sat in water for four or five days.

And so we get to the Gibson J45 and it's my favorite acoustic, and we look at it and I'm like, wait a minute, this looks OK. Wait a minute, it's heavy but it looks OK. So, we take it out and we poured about a gallon of water out of this thing, and literally it just came out of the sound hole. And I dried her off, I tuned her up and played an E chord and it was just like yesterday. It was like nothing.

HANSEN: Wow.

Mr. MALO: And I thought, man, you know, it actually sounds better. If I had known this, I'd have dumped it in the Cumberland years ago, you know. But she was fine. And we find out later that the reason some of the older guitars are going to be okay is that they used a very toxic marine glue on the guitars. You know, and they stopped using that. And so, of course, the newer guitars, you know, just literally disintegrated, you know, when you took them out of the case. But some of the older ones are OK.

HANSEN: So, you were able to salvage at least something.

Mr. MALO: Yes, yes. And some of my older guitars, I'm glad to say, are coming back, you know, and they're going to be fine.

HANSEN: Raul Malo. His new CD is called "Sinners and Saints" and joined us from the studios of WPLN in Nashville. Raul, thanks a lot. Good luck.

Mr. MALO: Thank you, dear. Appreciate it.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You can hear songs from Raul Malo's "Sinners and Saints" at our website, NPRMusic.org.

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