Tag Archives: Americana

Former Mavericks’ Frontman Raul Malo releases “Sinners & Saints” Solo CD

17 Jul

From the plaintive opening wail of a mariachi’s horn, to the lonesome twang of the Duane Eddy-style guitar, to the bouncing echo of a vintage Tex-Mex organ, you know this is going to be a very interesting ride. The title track “Sinners & Saints” sets the tone for what proves to be a very ambitious solo effort from former Mavericks’ leader, Raul Malo. We all have long known that Malo can flat out sing. His voice conjures up a haunting “Roy Orbison heads South of the Border” sound. Raul has frequently been stylistically compared to the likes of Orbison, Marty Robbins and Chris Isaak. Yet he has often worked within the contraints of Nashville’s major record label system.

This new Concord release granted Raul the freedom to experiment with a variety of musical styles. His voice is still always at the forefront — a soaring, operatic instrument that has become a very potent and recognizable musical weapon. In this effort you will be treated to bluesy numbers, Tex-Mex rockers a la Doug Sahm, accordian driven party tracks, country weepers, and traditional Latin tunes inspired by Malo’s childhood in the Cuban neighborhoods of South Florida. The wah-wah laced “Staying Here,” one of my favorite cuts on the new record, sounds like a long-lost Jimmy Webb ballad that could have been penned for a fresh-scrubbed Glen Campbell in the mid-1960’s.  

This satisfying collection of recordings immediately grabs your attention like a fiery hot salsa rojo. And repeated listens will only deepen your appetite for Malo’s spicy musical tastes and the magnificent pipes with which the Saints have blessed him — and us.  

 RAUL MALO’S SINNERS & SAINTS ALBUM, DUE SEPTEMBER 28, IS BLESSED WITH TEX-MEX RHYTHMS AND LATIN SOUL

New album for Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group recorded in Nashville and Austin; guests include Augie Meyers, Shawn Sahm, Michael Guerra and The Trishas

AUSTIN, Texas — Self-produced in his home studio, Sinners & Saints is the most intimate, honest and complex album Raul Malo has made in an already distinguished career. One hears in it a lifetime’s journey, from the singer-songwriter’s youth in Cuban neighborhoods of Miami through his years as one of the most intriguing talents in the Americana scene. The album is set for September 28, 2010 release on Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group. Sinners & Saints follows 2009’s critically acclaimed album Lucky One, Malo’s Fantasy debut.

Rooted in Malo’s lifelong connection to Latin music but infused with his wide-ranging love of country, blues, jazz and vintage rock ’n’ roll, Sinners & Saints combines sonic ingenuity with emotional sincerity.

Entertainment Weekly stated, “Malo is one of those rare singers who transcend the mundane with the sheer operatic sweep of his marvelous instrument. He’s among the last of a breed: a country stylist with finesse and brawn in equal measure, turning his laments into bittersweet valentines.”

In a departure from his past albums, Malo took his tracks from his home studio in Nashville to Austin, where an incredible musical cross-pollination took place. Malo has spent much time playing in Texas with the Lone Star State’s wealth of legendary musicians. He entered longtime friend Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studios and finished the album with the help of Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornado veteran Augie Meyers on the Vox Continental organ and, on the song “Superstar,” guitarist Shawn Sahm, Sir Douglas’ son. The Trishas (Savannah Welch, Kelley Mickwee, Liz Foster and Jamie Wilson) provided background vocals. And hotshot accordionist Michael Guerra, known for his work with the Tex-Mex Experience, lent further Tejas authenticity to the sound.

The title track opens the record, setting the album’s tone thematically and musically. From his boyhood and through his years of coming of age in Miami, Malo spent many nights in neighborhood music rooms listening to local artists perform their Flamenco zarzuelas. Malo wrote “Sinners & Saints” by conjuring up those nights in his head, and playing his electric guitar with a cross between Flamenco melodicism and retro surf-twang. “It has no chorus, no repeatable line,” he says, “And it’s long. Purposefully long.”

The second track, “Living for Today,” ventures into socio-political territory against an upbeat sound that includes chiming guitars, Meyers’ Vox organ and the Trishas’ backing vocals. In a musical space that includes the biting observations of Rodney Crowell, James McMurtry or Todd Snider, this song is a welcome addition. Speaking of Crowell, Malo provides a heart-felt reading of his modern-day standard “Til I Gain Control Again.”

The disc’s other songs are also full of special moments. In Austin Malo recorded an original song called “Superstar” with several pals from the Texas Tornados. That and several other tracks feature Guerra’s blazing Tex-Mex accordion, as in “San Antonio Baby.” In a more serious vein, Malo delivers the classic Spanish song “Sombras” in the stunning tenor voice that made him famous. He also offers an innovative cover of Los Lobos’ “Saint Behind the Glass,” whose rich mix of percussion, guitars and Mexican instruments will leave audiophiles deeply absorbed. The cryptic lyrics offer an unexpected finale to the album.

Malo & The Mavericks perform one of their Country hits

Raul Malo has seen and done a great deal in his career but Sinners & Saints demonstrates there is much more inside him. “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked on an album,” he says with a mixture of relief and pride. That includes the physical labor of confronting the studio alone day after day as well as the emotional courage to challenge his listeners and speak his mind. “This really is about me and my point of view. I realized that after I’d done it. It reflects really how I feel about a lot of things. That’s why this is as much of me as I’ve ever put on a record.”

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Manci’s Antique Club – Daphne, Alabama

18 Jun

Manci’s Antique Club is essentially a bar and restaurant, not an antique store. Let’s get that straight right away. It had me confused for a short while, until my friend Chris Kalifeh dragged me in for a quick look around. I have long since become a convert. Manci’s has really tasty burgers and po-boys. They also live up to their Italian ancestry with some mighty fine pasta dishes. And the bar has a comfy, neighborhood pub feel to it. You might say it is the Cheers of Alabama’s Eastern Shore. They serve draft Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Ale too — that is a definite plus.

This freshly painted mural outside of Manci’s (above) is part of a larger city arts project in Daphne. I believe this particular image was lifted from an early photo of one of the Manci women. It is very well done and adds to the overall charm of the building’s exterior. My arsty wife Eileen has recently been asked to create a similar mural, so I’m anxious to see what she comes up with.

Horses like the one seen above will keep an eye on your vehicle while you’re dining/drinking at Manci’s. This joint is in a cool little part of Old Town Daphne. If you’re a foodie, you’ll also want to check out Will Hughes’ Catering & Market (www.willhughescateringandmarket.com) located directly across Daphne’s Main Street. It is a gourmet’s dream with a wide assortment of sandwiches, soups and other take-home treats. I am especially partial to Will’s New Orleans-style bread pudding. It’s about as good as it gets this side of the Crescent City. There is also a pretty unique cigar/wine bar (De-Cuba) and a cupcake bakery (Something Sweet Bake Shop) just a couple doors down from Hughes’ building.

The Menu Board (above) outside Manci’s entrance. Their Bloody Marys are notorious in these parts. In fact, Manci’s is often billed as “The Bloody Mary Capital of the Eastern Shore.” Beyond that, Manci’s also houses one of the world’s largest collections of Jim Beam decanters. Very impressive. We spent a few minutes before dinner strolling around the restaurant’s cool, dark interior. It was pretty darn interesting and kept the boys occupied as our meals were being prepared.

The lucky horse shoe on the front door at Manci’s Antique Club.

The handsome wooden Indian (seen above) just inside the front door at Manci’s — on the lookout for stogies? Either that or he’s seeking a “mansierre” to support his well-developed chest. Dusty relics like this can be found throughout the tavern. Honestly, it could take hours to have a real close look at all the “doo-dads,” “chotchkes,” and “brick-a-brack” they have collected over the many decades.  

Guns, booze, and gasoline — what a combination! I snapped another photo of an antique gas pump inside Manci’s Antique Club, which once was a filling station back in the ’20s. So in many ways, I guess this truly is an “antique club — although I don’t believe any of the items are actually for sale. Who knows? Make ’em an offer and see what happens.

A vintage gas pump from days gone by. American Pickers would love this joint!

Clutter? Yup. Eye catching? Yer dern tootin’! The main bar at Manci’s Antique Club. Alex Manci, the club’s current owner and resident barkeep, quietly holds court — all the while sporting his signature driving cap. This is his little kingdom and he reigns calmly but proudly. Barack Obama’s address concerning the Gulf Oil spill was on the bar’s lone TV as we took our seats. It was all a bit surreal. We were right in the heart of the affected area and preparing to dine on the type of seafood treats which have long made the Gulf region nationally famous. My visiting mother-in-law Pat is a Baltimore native. She declared the soft shell crab sandwich (aka “The Spider Sandwich”) to be first rate.

Boxing’s Rocky Marciano – still a major source of pride for Italian-Americans.

Minnie Pearl greets the female diners seeking rest — “HOW-DEEEE!!!”

Yes, Food Network’s Guy Fieri has been here to film an episode of Triple D. His signed poster adorns the door of the “GENTS” room. Manci’s is also prominently featured in one of Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins,  and Dives” cookbooks. Of the 3 choices, I would say Manci’s would fall under the DIVE category. You don’t see many tourists or out of towners in here. It’s pretty much a locals hangout. And I guess that’s the way they like it. It’s something of a secret dining society and I consider myself fortunate to finally be in on the secret.   

Combo Fried Gulf Oyster and Shrimp Po-Boy at Manci’s — get ’em while you can! Manci’s po-boys have been praised by the likes of Southern Living and Coastal Living. The Bayou La Batre oysters were obviously fresh and the shrimp were fat and meaty — unlike those puny little frozen cocktail shrimp you find in some lesser po-boys. The bread, which was freshly baked, was slathered from end to end with a homemade tartar sauce. I am normally not a big tartar sauce guy, yet this was quite well done and, more importantly, not overdone. A little bit of mayo goes a long way. Local tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and red onions completed the symphony of complimentary ingredients. A little splash of hot sauce won’t hurt either!

Retro newspaper ads as seen on all the tabletops (pictured above) at Manci’s. Anyone need some Princess Bust Developer? Hey, maybe this is where our old friend the wooden Indian re-enters the storyline??? I’ve seen this kind of designer touch before, but it is right at home at Manci’s. In many ways you’ll feel like you have been transported back to the 1930’s in a time machine. A time machine, I might add, with really cold beer and really memorable chow.

Never heard of “Alabama Water before?” Neither had I. Tap water, lemon, and Sweet-n-Low — mmm, mmmm! I’m not sure how many of these drinks they actually sell each day. I didn’t bother to ask. However, it makes for a nice conversation starter if nothing else.

A dusty old carriage inside Manci’s.

Early prototypes of iPods on display inside Manci’s main dining room.

A vintage ROCK-O-LA juke box – check out the primo selection of tunes!

http://www.manci.net/

Zac Brown Band – Chicken Fried

20 May

How could any blog called Dixie Dining not dig this???

Watch “American Pickers” on the History Channel

6 Apr