Raul Malo: Lucky One (Fantasy)
He's one of the most gifted contemporary singers in any genre, and although he occasionally goes a little Andrea Bocelli on us, Raul Malo can really bring the swoon with his clear, heart-on-sleeve tenor. The ex-Mavericks frontman, solo since 2001, calls to mind his former band on Lucky One, although it's less categorically country. He brings tinges of high-lonesome Western, Spanish, swing and classic pop balladry into play.
Malo, who has done a couple of cover records, co-wrote each of the 12 tracks on Lucky One, beginning with the title track, a jaunty charmer with a south-of-the-border air. He breaks out his inner Roy Orbison not too much of a stretch, seeing as it's right near the surface on a few tunes, most notably "Something Tells Me." He drops a little uptown blues on "Ready For My Lovin'," finds just the right swagger on the breezily swinging "You Always Win" and hits the Tex-Mex with "Lonely Hearts."
Malo is most apt to go over the top on ballads, none more so than "Rosalie," which is bloated on passion and pain. Yeah, Malo's a country singer, but he's also Latino so we'll give him a pass on that one miscue.