CD Review of You’re Only Lonely by Raul Malo

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You’re Only Lonely
starstarno starno starno star Label: Sanctuary
Released: 2006
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For a time in the ‘90s, the Raul Malo-led Mavericks were arguably the best, most unfortunately kept secret in country music; though they had their share of minor-to-medium-sized hits, they never achieved the kind of stratospheric success that should have been due an outfit with such remarkable chops and genre-busting spirit.

The Mavericks hit their peak with 1998’s Trampoline, a dizzying, Mexicali-tinged cocktail of pop, rock, country, and just about anything else you could think of. The band recorded the album live in the studio and took it on the road behind “Dance the Night Away,” one of the biggest smash hits that never was, before a public that – if not entirely indifferent – failed to muster enthusiasm sufficient to keep MCA from pulling the plug on one of the few major-label country music careers with genuinely exciting promise.

The years since have found Raul Malo and the Mavericks wandering the indie desert; Malo’s solo debut, 2002’s Today, was released on Higher Octave, while the band’s self-titled reunion effort and You’re Only Lonely have sprouted up in the dinosaur graveyard that is the Sanctuary Music Group. A sad twist of fate, to be sure, but then again, neither Malo nor his band have come close, of late, to reaching the potential displayed on earlier recordings. Maybe the suits at MCA knew what they were doing, for once.

Harsh? Perhaps. But when you stop to consider that Malo’s latest is a drab porridge consisting of ten covers of more-or-less well-known ballads (including the “classic” title track) and one middling original, well…maybe it’s the truth that hurts, or maybe it’s just listening to the squintillionth version of “At Last.” Malo’s voice remains the same honey-coated thrill it’s always been, and there are occasional bursts of energy here – his versions of “Secret Heart” and “Run to Me” are particularly enjoyable, and it’s nice to hear Harry Nilsson’s “Remember” and Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home” get the Peter Asher treatment. But for the most part, this album reeks of either contractual fulfillment or artistic exhaustion.

Maybe both. Either way, exercises in karaoke like this one are beneath someone of Malo’s talent, and not worth your money.

~Jeff Giles