Sinners & Saints
Things are looking up for Tex-Mex fans. Earlier this year, the reunited Texas Tornados (with Freddie Fender appearing posthumously and Shawn Sahm filling in for his pop, Doug) released “¡Esta Bueno!” Now, former Mavericks member Malo pushes the genre’s envelope with “Sinners & Saints.”
A self-produced affair, the singer/songwriter recorded vocals and electric guitar at home in Nashville, then took the demos to Sam “Lightning” Seifert — who also engineered the new Texas Tornados disc — at Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studio in Austin. There, Malo was in overdub heaven, playing piano, organ, synthesizer, drums, percussion, tambourine, bass, requinto, ukulele and, of course, more guitar.
Session players were enlisted on bass, drums and keyboards. Guest artists include Steve Fishell (pedal steel on Rodney Crowell’s ” ‘Til I Gain Control Again”); Sahm and Flaco Jimenez (electric guitar and accordion on “Superstar”); and on several songs, Augie Meyers (Vox Continental organ), the Tex-Mex Experience’s Michael Guerra (accordion) and the Trishas (background vocals).
But the album’s best solo belongs to Jameson Sevits, the Nashville trumpeter featured on the title track’s two-minute-plus instrumental intro. The song could pass for a summit between Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, Ennio Morricone and the Sir Douglas Quintet.
“Living for Today” is classic rock in the vein of Creedence Clearwater Revival and SDQ. “San Antonio Baby” is a nod to the Texas Tornados. “Staying Here,” one of the few non-Tex-Mex numbers, melds the musicality of “Gentle on My Mind” with the lyricism of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” — except the protagonist can’t bring himself to leave his lover.
Besides the Crowell cover, there’s “Sombras,” a Spanish love song popularized in 1943 by Libertad Lamarque; and “Saint Behind the Glass,” a sonic tour de force almost as intense as the original by Los Lobos.
1. Sinners & Saints
2. Living For Today
3. San Antonio Baby
4. ‘Til I Gain Control Again
5. Staying Here
8. Matter Much To You
9. Saint Behind the Glass
Total time: 40:48