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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

It's Friday. Could be time for romance and Raul Malo has your soundtrack.

(Soundbite of song, “You're Only Lonely”)

Mr. RAUL MALO (Singer): (Singing) When your world is ready to fall on your little shoulders, when you're feeling lonely and small, you need somebody there to hold you. You can call out my name, when you're only lonely.

BLOCK: Raul Malo was the lead singer of the country hybrid group The Mavericks, his voice often compared to that of the late Roy Orbison. Raul Malo's new solo album of dreamy cover songs takes its title from the J. D. Souther song, You're Only Lonely.

Mr. MALO: (Singing): When you need somebody around on the nights that try you, remember -

Everybody always asking me when are you going to do a Roy Orbison song, since I started with The Mavericks. When are you going to record one? And so I figured well, this is as close as I'm going to get. Do one that was made as a tribute to Roy.

(Singing): It's no crime. Darling, we've got lots of time. Whoa. Whoa.

BLOCK: You're doing it slower and quite a bit lower than J. D. Souther did this back in the ‘70s.

Mr. MALO: I have a manlier voice than J. D. No, you also, you know, you have to find your right - you know, when you're interpreting a song, and that was part of the trick of doing this record, you want to do these songs. They're so iconic that you want to pay tribute to them, but you also want to do them your own way. So, you know, we messed with keys and tempos, as you do, and tried to find a happy medium.

(Soundbite of song, “At Last (My Love Has Come Along)”)

Mr. MALO: (Singing): At last, my love has come along. My lonely days are over and life is like a song. Oh, yeah. At last.

BLOCK: When you do a song like At Last, which is so associated with one singer, with Etta James, that's got to be a funny place to be, to try to make that your own and not sound too much like her but not sound too much not like her, I guess.

Mr. MALO: Right. That was the scariest one of all of them. When we were doing research for the album we found that there weren't that many male versions of that song and so we thought well, we have that in our corner. Let's try it in a different key, you know, you're not going to - I'm not the kind of singer, I'm not going to outperform Etta. I'm not going to out-Etta Etta. I wouldn't necessarily say that it's a better version of it. It's a different version of it.

(Singing): I've found a thrill to press my cheek to, a thrill that I've never known. Ooh, you smile. You smile and then the spell is cast.

People used to do each other's songs all the time, you know, and it wouldn't have been finished by one artist and somebody else was cutting it. And that's why you had all these great versions of Got You Under My Skin and I kind of like that, you know? Although I'm not recording Honky Tonk Badonk Adonk. I'm just not doing that one.

BLOCK: You're sure about that?

Mr. MALO: I don't know a lot of things. I know that.

BLOCK: Do you think that songwriting now has lost some of this romance?

Mr. MALO: Oh, shoot, yeah. It's lost its romance. It's lost its sense of melody. You know, we've de-intellectualized everything. What has happened? I mean, these used to be pop - this is the way people wrote. This is the way people spoke. This is how people listened.

(Singing): Sometimes lovers hurt each other telling lies, acting out charades behind their smiling eyes. If you love me darling, you must realize. We can't play those games that lovers play.

BLOCK: In a lot of these songs there's this sort of nakedness, I think, both in what you're saying lyrically and also what you're doing with your voice. Did that come naturally? Was that something you were aware of doing?

Mr. MALO: I think that's more of a credit to Peter Asher's production style. He wanted to make a record that was tailored around my vocal and so he really worked on the arrangements. If there was a guitar fill or a solo or a drum fill or a piano lick, whatever, everything was around a vocal phrase, and he didn't want it to be just a bunch of guys jamming and this guy singing a song. He wanted the vocals to stand out and everything else just be nice little colors around it.

(Soundbite of “Tomorrow Night”)

Mr. MALO: (Singing): Tomorrow night, will you remember what you said tonight? Tomorrow night, will all the thrill be gone?

BLOCK: What was it about Tomorrow Night that you liked?

Mr. MALO: I think it's a really sexy song. Certainly the sentiment in that song, I think everybody has experienced at one time or another. And if you haven't loved, you should. You should get out and have a one-night stand or have somebody reject you after one night. It's fantastic. And you'll be singing songs like this.

BLOCK: You think so?

Mr. MALO: No, I don't know. I'm just being silly.

BLOCK: Raul Malo, thanks very much.

Mr. MALO: Thank you.

BLOCK: You can hear more songs from Raul Malo's CD You're Only Lonely at NPR.org.

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