Raul Malo

Sinners & Saints

Fantasy

maloThings 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.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Sinners & Saints
2. Living For Today
3. San Antonio Baby
4. ‘Til I Gain Control Again
5. Staying Here
6. Superstar
7. Sombras
8. Matter Much To You
9. Saint Behind the Glass

Total time: 40:48

External links
artist’s website
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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Los Lobos

Los Lobos Goes Disney

Disney Sound

lobosThere’s no shortage of single- and various-artist Disney tributes: “Dave Digs Disney” (Dave Brubeck), “Let’s Fly With Mary Poppins” (Louis Prima), “Disney Songs the Satchmo Way” (Louis Armstrong), “Stay Awake,” “Heigh-Ho! Mozart,” “Bossa Disney Nova” and “Got No Strings” (Michelle Shocked) are but a few over a half-century.

So was Los Lobos thinking “Why not?” Sort of. The group’s paean to classic Disney movies and theme-park attractions wasn’t conceived until its contract with Hollywood Records was finished and the Disney-owned label asked, “What about that kids record you were supposed to give us?” A one-album deal with the Mouse’s children’s imprint was drawn up and the rest is history.

But “Goes Disney” is as much for a boomer’s inner child as it is for kids. Few youngsters are likely to be begging their parents to buy it because they were floored by the rockin’ cover of “Ugly Bug Ball,” originally sung by Burl Ives in 1963’s “Summer Magic.”

Other selections along subversive/obscure lines include the ska version of “Grim Grinning Ghosts” (Thurl Ravenscroft would be proud of Conrad Lozano’s vocals) and the mariachi-infused “Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room.”

Elsewhere, there’s the bilingual “Heigh-Ho” that emulates the dwarf chorus but in a lower register, complete with whistling but also wonderfully anachronistic electric guitar and congas. And 20 years after the boys did “I Wan’na Be Like You” for the various-artist tribute “Stay Awake,” they cover it again — albeit at a slower tempo and almost Brazilian-style.

Both Roger Miller compositions from “Robin Hood” are a pleasant surprise; hearing the slowed-down “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” is like the first listen to the Beatles’ “Revolution 1” after hearing the B-side of “Hey Jude” 20 gazillion times; and the closing surf instrumental “When You Wish Upon a Star” gives way at the end to an abbreviated Tex-Mex “It’s a Small World.”

Definitely not your father’s — or your grandfather’s — Disney.gnm_end_bug

Tracks
1. Heigh-Ho (“Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs”)
2. I Wan’na Be Like You (“The Jungle Book”)
3. Not In Nottingham (“Robin Hood”)
4. The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room (The Enchanted Tiki Room)
5. Grim Grinning Ghosts (Haunted Mansion)
6. I Will Go Sailing No More (“Toy Story”)
7. The Ugly Bug Ball (“Summer Magic”)
8. Cruella De Vil (“101 Dalmatians”)
9. Bella Notte (“Lady And The Tramp”)
10. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (“Song Of The South”)
11. The Bare Necessities (“The Jungle Book”)
12. Oo-De-Lally (“Robin Hood”)
13. When You Wish Upon A Star/It’s A Small World (“Pinocchio”/It’s a Small World)

Total time: 38:45

External links:
artist’s website
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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Various Artists

Keep Your Soul:
A Tribute to Doug Sahm

Vanguard

sahmIt’ll be 10 years ago in November that Sahm, 58, went to sleep at a New Mexico motel and never woke up. Since then, there have been enough releases to keep fans happy while preserving his legacy: “The Return of Wayne Douglas” (his final sessions, 2000); “The Songs of Sahm” (the Bottle Rockets’ covers disc, 2002); two limited-edition reissues — “The Genuine Texas Groover” (“Doug Sahm & Band” and “Texas Tornado” with more than an album’s worth of outtakes, 2003) and “The Complete Mercury Masters” (the Sir Douglas Quintet’s six original Mercury/Smash albums plus bonus material, 2005); and “Live From Austin, Texas” (a 1981 “Austin City Limits” performance, 2006). 

Now comes this long-awaited and well-executed tribute by friends, family and kindred spirits: “Shawn Sahm and I tried to do a tribute album right after Doug Sahm died in 1999, but it was just too soon,” writer-publicist Bill Bentley told Good New Music. “Ten years later we found a partner in Vanguard Records through David Katznelson and it all fell together.”

“I wanted to do a tribute to Pop … to help draw attention to the coming 10th anniversary of his passing,” Shawn said, “so I called Bill and David. David brought in Vanguard, the four of us busted our asses and here it is.”

Bentley and Katznelson are former Warner Bros. execs, and the majority of contributors were lined up by Bentley, whose Texas roots helped ensure the album’s requisite preponderance of Lone Star artists. “We asked each contributor for a song suggestion, and almost all got to do the one they wanted,” Bentley said. “A few needed suggestions, and in one case two people wanted to do the same song, so the artist who asked first got their first choice. Fair is fair!”

When Levon Helm’s schedule forced him to back out of his commitment to do “She’s About a Mover,” Ry Cooder came to the rescue with Little Willie G. (of Thee Midniters and later Malo fame). Cooder’s production and famous electric bottleneck turn the song into a raucous affair along the lines of his own legendary covers of Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm,” Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up.”

Other highlights are Alejandro Escovedo’s “Too Little Too Late,” undoubtedly the most reworked song with its multitracked violins creating an almost saxophone sound that joins Mick Ronson-like guitar for the chorus’ descending scale; Jimmie Vaughan’s take on “Why, Why, Why,” his unpretentious but soulful guitar a perfect match for the tune’s ’50s-style R&B leanings; and Charlie Sexton & the Mystic Knights of the Sea’s thrashfest remake of “You’re Doin’ It Too Hard.”

Shawn’s version of “Mendocino” is the other big hit bookending the set. He plays all the instruments himself (despite yelling out “Play it, Augie!” just before the organ solo), taking the essence of the original and kicking it up a notch. “It has a special meaning/vibe,” Shawn said. “All my pop’s songs do to me; they are scrapbooks of my childhood in a personal-type way. But on that tune, I just really wanted to visit that simple SDQ formula that starts with a simple, killer tune, and has those great rolling bass lines, and the Vox pumping, big vocal! Magic!”

Like Sir Doug’s output, “Keep Your Soul” is eclectic as hell, and reflects his affinity for pedal steel, fiddle and accordion. Here’s who sings what and the original sources (all are from SDQ releases unless otherwise indicated):

1. Little Willie G. – She’s About a Mover (1965 single; also on first album “Best of Sir Douglas Quintet” 1966)
2. Los Lobos – It Didn’t Even Bring Me Down (“Mendocino” 1969)
3. Alejandro Escovedo – Too Little Too Late (“Day Dreaming at Midnight” 1994)
4. Greg Dulli – You Was For Real (solo album “The Return of Wayne Douglas” 2000)
5. Dave Alvin – Dynamite Woman (1969 single; also on “Rough Edges” 1973)
6. Flaco Jimenez with the West Side Horns (feat. Augie Meyers on Vox organ and Nunie Rubio on vocal) – Ta Bueno Compadre (It’s OK Friend) (Texas Tornados “4 Aces” 1996)
7. Delbert McClinton – Texas Me (“Mendocino” 1969)
8. Terry Allen – I’m Not That Kat Anymore (1975 nonalbum B-side)
9. Jimmie Vaughan – Why, Why, Why (Doug Sahm and the Markays, 1960 single)
10. Charlie Sexton & the Mystic Knights of the Sea – You’re Doin’ It Too Hard (“Rough Edges” 1973)
11. The Gourds – Nuevo Laredo (“Together After Five” 1970)
12. Freda & the Firedogs – Be Real (“1 + 1 + 1 = 4” 1970)
13. Joe ‘King’ Carrasco & Texas Tornados (feat. Augie Meyers on Vox organ) – Adios Mexico (“Quintessence” 1983)
14. Shawn Sahm – Mendocino (1968 single; also on “Mendocino” 1969)gnm_end_bug

Total time: 46:46

External links
Doug Sahm tribute MySpace page
amazon.com
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Ry Cooder

The UFO Has Landed

Rhino

One of these days, someone’s gonna do the 4-CD box set Cooder deserves — with early Rising Sons and Captain Beefheart material, session work, solo stuff, soundtracks, world music collaborations … But until then, this double CD culled from studio albums and soundtracks will have to do.

“UFO” isn’t the first compilation of the fretmeister/musicologist’s work. Earlier collections were “Why Don’t You Try Me Tonight?” (1985) and “River Rescue” (1994), both “best of” releases; and the double-disc soundtrack anthology, “Music by Ry Cooder” (1995).

Like “Echoes,” Pink Floyd’s 2001 2-CD “best of,” this is not a chronologically sequenced retrospective. Cooder and percussionist-son Joachim picked 34 songs spanning 38 years (from 1970’s “Ry Cooder” to 2008’s “I, Flathead”), jumping in with a couple of tracks from “Get Rhythm” (1987), his last solo album before he entered the 18-year-long “I only do soundtracks and world music now” phase of his career.

From there it’s a game of musical leapfrog, moving forward and backward in time, each track segueing perfectly into the next with only an occasional pairing of songs from the same album.

Twenty-seven selections are from solo releases, with no contributions from “Jazz” (1978) or “My Name Is Buddy” (2007), the latter having no representation presumably because its folk-tale/protest vibe would have disrupted the package’s continuity. Six entries come from the soundtracks to “Johnny Handsome,” “The Long Riders,” “Paris, Texas,” “Southern Comfort,” “Crossroads” and “Alamo Bay.” And one previously unreleased song, a cover of Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” featuring Buckwheat Zydeco on accordion, is from 2005 sessions that produced “Cryin’ in the Streets,” a song by Buckwheat that Cooder produced for the Hurricane Katrina benefit album “Our New Orleans.”

As always, while everything he does is superb, Cooder’s sublime slide guitar playing provides the most satisfying music-appreciation moments.

Tracks
Disc One
1. Get Rhythm
2. Low–Commotion
3. Available Space
4. On A Monday
5. Do Re Mi
6. Which Came First
7. The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor)
8. Down In Hollywood
9. Smells Like Money
10. Let’s Work Together
11. I Got Mine
12. Cherry Ball Blues
13. Jesus On The Mainline
14. Tattler
15. Teardrops Will Fall
16. Maria Elena
17. Jesse James

Disc Two
1. Paris, Texas
2. Theme From Southern Comfort
3. Tamp ‘Em Up Solid
4. Billy The Kid
5. Crazy ‘Bout An Automobile (Every Woman I Know)
6. Drive Like I Never Been Hurt
7. Feelin’ Bad Blues
8. Boomer’s Story
9. How Can You Keep Moving (Unless You Migrate Too)
10. Alimony
11. Always Lift Him Up/Kanaka Wai Wai
12. Theme From Alamo Bay
13. Dark End Of The Street
14. Why Don’t You Try Me
15. Poor Man’s Shangri-La
16. Going Back To Okinawa
17. Little Sister

Total time: 2:14:22

External links
artist’s fansite
amazon.com
iTunes Store

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