Raul Malo Is Where the Music Takes Him

Janet Goodman | August 10th, 2010

Raul Malo

With no formal training besides a handful of guitar lessons at age 9 or 10, Miami native Raul Malo has gone on to become the vocal powerhouse front man of the Grammy Award-winning alternative country band The Mavericks and more recently has achieved well-deserved critical acclaim as a solo recording artist. His 2009 album, The Lucky One, is considered by many a mini-masterpiece, yet Malo humbly insists that he’s still learning and evolving as an artist.

Taking a look at the musician credits on his upcoming sophomore release on Fantasy Records, Sinners & Saints, due out September 28, one might be dazzled by the long list of instruments on which he performs: guitar, bass, drums, percussion, organ, synthesizer, piano, Mellotron, tron violin, requinto and ukulele. Mention this to him and Malo laughs at himself, “I just found something I’m pretty good at. I mean, it’s not as impressive as it sounds. I have no other marketable skills. It’s all tied into the music. Believe me, I’m a completely useless human being outside the music world. Ask my family.”

There was never a time in Malo’s life when he considered himself a musician first and a singer second. “I really don’t differentiate between the two. I think singers ARE musicians. I kind of consider them one and the same.”

And what an instrument the man has! He’s a singer’s singer–admired by his peers for having one of the best voices in the business. His outrageous tenor has strength and clarity more associated with opera singers than Americana/World music singers. Malo admits to having listened to a lot of opera as a kid. “My mom was a big opera fan. I found myself at times imitating all those great tenors, but opera is a whole other discipline. That’s really a studied art form. You can’t just jump in and sing a musical piece like a great aria. I have the utmost respect for opera and the people who sing it, but they are way too disciplined and I’m way too lazy to study opera (laughs).”

Even though he considers his voice his instrument, he doesn’t follow any preparatory regimen for concerts or recording sessions, such as taking herbal teas or honey. “You know, honestly, I don’t warm up. I don’t do any of that stuff…really. I’m very fortunate that I can just sing. In that regard I’m very, very blessed that I have a strong instrument. It also has to do with the fact that I don’t strain my vocals. I can reach the high notes without having to hurt myself. I think the trick is to playing with a dynamic band that won’t overpower you, and keeping stage volumes low.”

“A lot of singers–I see them all the time in clubs live–their bands’ volume on stage is ridiculous. And when a singer has to sing above that–you’re done, you’re not going to last long. I know so many people who have burned their vocals out and there’s no reason for it, really. We used to be able to sing without having to have monitors. Bands used to not have monitors on stage. They used to be able to just play with each other–just set up and play–and we don’t do that anymore. Well, I mean I do; we’re kind of old school in that way. Usually, on a big stage you have to have them, but you see people in small clubs with monitors cranked and the stage volume tripled. A singer cannot compete with a Marshall Stack (laughs); there’s no way it’s going to happen. So something’s going to give, and eventually, what’s going to give is your vocal chords. Yeah, you’d think more people would adhere to it. Honestly, that was a big sticking point with The Mavericks, you know? For some reason, The Mavericks were so ridiculously loud on stage that it got to the point where I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t do more than two shows in a row.’ It’s like, ‘What’s going on here?’ And so that was the real (issue) with the band because everyone was just so used to playing so loud and I’m like, ‘Well, if I keep up this route I’m going to be…,’unless I go into a whole Tom Waits impersonation (laughs), you know? Which is fine, but even Tom Waits–that’s an affected voice. He can’t do that over a loud band. I guarantee you his band’s not a loud band. You can’t sing like that night after night. The ones that last–who have been doing it for awhile–know how to do it. So I’m a real stickler about that.”

Malo recorded most of the tracks for the upcoming Sinners & Saints at his home studio and then took them to Ray Benson’s Bismeaux Studios in Austin to finish. For the first time he wore many hats during the creation of an album. “I was enjoying the process and learned a lot about engineering and micing techniques, which is a whole other skill set. I wanted to learn that kind of stuff because I’ve never really engineered an album or been involved in a project from every aspect. I’ve always been the artist; you come in, you sing your song, you play a little guitar and you leave…not quite like that, but you’re not that heavily involved from the get-go. And on this record, I was involved from the first sounds to the mixing to the editing to the playing of it, arranging, producing, writing–all aspects of it. So this is what I meant by this is truly the hardest I’ve ever worked on an album.”

“I think, also, in many ways it has been really rewarding just to see it done, just to finally have it completed, ready to come out. I’ve really dug the whole process, even though it puts a strain on family. When you’re involved in a project like this you’re doing everything. It puts a strain on relationships. It puts a strain because you’re always immersed in the work. Between that and still going out and gigging it’s been a long, hard year, but it’s been fun.”

Malo’s work is laced with eclectic sonic accoutrements, like compelling retro-surf electric guitars, lively accordion and high-pitched tropical requinto, giving Sinners & Saints a delectable musical soundscape, and his vibrant Cuban heritage comes through in intense Flamenco fashion. “I wanted to make a record that is fundamentally fun to listen to. Some of the songs just took on a life of their own as I added stuff, as I arranged them. You put in the instruments that you think work and hopefully people will like the effort. It’s hard to say. You work hard on the record and you pour your heart and soul into it, and you just never know how it’s going to be received. This record was definitely a bit more selfish than the other ones; I really wanted to do exactly what I wanted and not having any compromises. And so people will hopefully appreciate that, you never know…my mom likes it (laughs).”

Luckily, the project was completed before the devastating floods in Nashville this past May. Malo’s home suffered water damage, although his studio was spared. “All my instruments were at Sound Check [the famous warehouse that was heavily damaged by the overflowing Cumberland River, where many recording artists kept their touring equipment and instruments]. Hey, I just finished this record. I did all this recording. I had all of my guitars and stuff [at home], and then all my guitars were gone–all of them. And I just thought, Really? Maybe God didn’t like my record (laughs).” More likely He cut Malo a break and let him finish his stunning tracks in time before the rains came.

Actually, not all of his guitars were lost. One guitar was with Malo in Florida when the floods first began. He was there performing at the Key West Songwriters Festival, which took place April 28 – May 2. “That [guita] has proven to be my favorite work horse. I got that from a gentleman named David Vincent, who’s the Takamine rep and I needed a classical acoustic–this was years ago–and I borrowed it from him. I fell in love with that guitar and I’ve never given it back. So I can’t give it back now–she’s mine. It’s a very high end Takamine. It’s their Flamenco model and it’s just beautiful–sounds great.”

While visiting cities like New York, Toronto, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Copenhagen and London during his summer/fall tour, Malo won’t be thinking much about creating songs. “I don’t write all the time. I write if I have a record to make or if something comes up. Right now I’m touring, so I’m not really in the writing mode. But that’s not to say that if a friend of mine or somebody calls me up, ‘Hey, you wanna get together, have a couple of beers? I got a song,’ then we’ll give that a go. I’m not one of those who always has a pen and paper in hand. If I’m traveling or if I’m working on the road, I don’t write. Sometimes I’ll get an idea and jot it down, or put it on a little work tape then save it, and when I get back home or get some quiet time, I might work it out.”

A stellar cut on his previous album, Lucky One, is the lush, piano-driven ballad “So Beautiful”, although Malo admits that he mostly composes on guitar. “Every once in awhile I’ll fumble my way through a melody [on piano] or come up with something that sounds close to a song (laughs), and I’ll call it a song. Luckily, I kept playing with that little melody and eventually it just turned into a song. So there’s a piano song here and there, but I’m not proficient enough on the piano to completely compose on her.”

Listen to any handful of Malo tracks and the common denominator is a great melody. “I would say that melody is probably the most important [part of a song]–uh, well I shouldn’t say the most important because lyrics are important, too, but melody is definitely important. As a singer, I’ve got a pretty good range and you always want songs that you can sink your teeth into and have fun singing them, so usually melodies are crucial. That’s probably why I love all those old songs because the melodies were so fantastic! We don’t hear a lot of really great melodies anymore and I don’t know why that is; while I could take a guess as to why that is. Every once in awhile somebody will come up with something that’s really catchy, but most of the time I don’t really hear a lot of great melodies. So I always refer back to the old stuff because the melodies were just wonderful and they’re great to sing to. People like Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Ray Charles–and the list goes on and on–sing that music and I know why they sing those songs. And yeah, part of it’s the lyrics, but a big part of it is the melody because they can really resonate.”

For Malo, songwriting is not an exact process. “Sometimes I’ll re-record a song a couple of times. Sometimes I’ll re-write it. Sometimes I’ll re-arrange it, try different versions of it. I would say they don’t always come easy, but then there are times when the whole melody is in my head from beginning to end, and that’s kind of cool. That’s like a little gift, you know? Somebody going, ‘Hey, let’s go easy on the big guy today. Let’s give him a melody. He seems a little grumpy.’ So, that happens every once in awhile. I don’t know where they come from. I’m glad they do.”

“Usually there’s a melody and some sort of lyrical hook line or title, and once you have that, then you can hammer out the rest. But it depends. Sometimes none of those things exist. You just might have an idea for a theme for a song, then you go at it with a complete blank canvas–and that’s fun, too. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the beauty of it all. For me, there’s no set way. I work however it comes and you adapt. I don’t have to sit there and go, ‘Oh, I’ve got to write at ten in the morning–the sun is out.’ It doesn’t matter. Sometimes I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night and written. Gotten up at four in the morning and come out to watch the sunrise and have a song. “So Beautiful” was like that. I woke up in a thunderstorm and sat outside and the rain came down and wrote “So Beautiful,” so you never know.”

Sinners & Saints has plenty of the songs Malo fans love and have come to expect from him: tasty, playful Tex-Mex inspired songs like “Superstar” and “San Antonio Baby,” beautiful ballads like Rodney Crowell’s “Til I Gain Control Again,” and a spectacularly sung Spanish standard “Sombras.” But then there’s “Staying Here,” which feels like new country territory for Malo as an artist and a songwriter, issuing in a Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb renaissance.

“I’m certainly a hug fan of Glen Campbell and a huge fan of that style of songwriting and that period. I guess that was my tribute to a sort of Elvis/Glen kind of song–[circa] 1968 or 1969. It was one of those songs that kind of wrote itself. I really didn’t think much of it at first, then later people asked, ‘Are you gonna put this on the record?’ I kept hearing that and kept hearing that, ‘You gotta put this on the record.’ Sometimes you lose perspective, especially when you’re–and it’s the danger of working so hard on a project and a bit by yourself–you lose a little of that objectivity. But then again, Picasso didn’t work with anybody, you know what I mean? Not that I’m comparing myself to Picasso, but art is art, and it’s supposed to be about artists’ expression and whatever their ideas are. It’s a bit self-indulgent to work like that. How you remedy that–I don’t know. Hopefully you have honest friends and family that sit around and tell you ‘You suck’ every once in awhile so you can kind of get a grip on it. “Staying Here” was one of those. I didn’t think much of it, really. Then I just recorded it and, ‘Well, let’s see what this sounds like,’ and ended up liking the results. I think it’s a good little song and a good little track, and I got to have my friends The Trishas sing on there [background vocals], so it’s a full-blown Elvis song; a bit self-indulgent, but fun.”

Special guests on Sinners & Saints bring a lot of Texas charm to the record. Malo met accordion player Michael Guerra sometime last year and started hanging out in San Antonio and Austin, rekindling old friendships. While working on this project, the songs started to take on a vibe that inspired his desire to have Augie Meyers play organ. Other Texas Tornadoes added their flair, as well as The Trishas, and Guerra, who is now part of Malo’s touring band. “To have those guys on the record–I just thought, ‘Well, what a perfect fit.’ Some things–you just don’t fight them. If that’s where the music is taking you, if that’s where the people are congregating to play with you, just go with it. And that’s what I did with this record. I kind of let it take a life of its own and see where it was going. When I started it, I didn’t really have a set plan where it was going. So, it was nice to see it come to fruition and have it all come together at the end.”

Stand-out track is the honey of a song “Matter Much to You,” that brilliantly gets across a socio-political hot-topic statement in a gentle and non-preaching way. It’s a little Tex-Mex, a little Roy Orbison and a whole lot of Raul Malo. Co-written with Alan Miller and Rick Trevino, it’s a song he feels passionate about. “At the time when we wrote the song, there were all these songs on country radio done by country artists that were promoting intolerance that I thought was just amazing to me. All these songs about taking Texas back, and keeping your guacamole here and getting the illegals out. Then you saw the Tea Party thing, and now it’s become a reality–it’s incredible. We wrote “Matter Much to You” about a year ago. It was really our answer to that, to that intolerance. It seemed to me at the time that if you were on the left, you couldn’t relate to people on the right, and people on the right couldn’t relate to people on the left. And it’s still like this now. That divide is certainly there. We all talk at each other. We don’t listen to one another. Nobody’s listening. You hear the pundits on TV, everybody’s yelling over each other. No points get resolved and it continues. And now, these people are coming into power. They’re kind of nutty. I’ve never see it quite like this. It’s funny that it’s even worse now.”

“In country music, I’ve always thought about it, but certainly now, and I think it’s hard to argue that country music is the mouthpiece of the right wing. You hear it in the music and you hear it in the lyrics and the attitude. There’s no denying it. I felt, when did country music do this and why? But it’s supposed to be about the downtrodden, the poor, and the meek. Not just country music–folk music, too. It’s really been kind of sad to see, but it’s certainly there. I’ve seen it in Nashville. I know that I’m certainly an outsider now because I’ve been so outspoken about them, and it doesn’t matter. I’m not part of that world anymore. It doesn’t affect me one way or the other, but it is interesting to know if you’re on the left politically and you’re a bit more liberal, you’re not going to be a part of that machine.”

“You’ve got a lot of country artists–BIG country artists–that play up the redneck thing and they’re really not that red, but it makes them a lot of money and it serves them well. I think that’s sad to see. Right there–that promotes intolerance. If you’re a big star, you should be able to speak your mind. You don’t have to let everyone know your dark, deep secrets, but my gosh, let’s not promote intolerance! Sorry I’m going on and on about it…Honestly, “Matters Much to You” is one of my favorites on there. I like that song a lot. You never know how music will affect people; all you can do is put it out there.”

The man has had some golden career moments, yet somehow finds a way to remain grounded and grateful. “I think once you’ve been at it for awhile, you want to have fun with it and relax, and just enjoy the moment and not take it too seriously. At the end of the day, we’re musicians and we’re blessed to be able to do that for a living. I see so many people day in and day out really working for a living–sweating guts, building stuff, paving streets, whatever. I get to sit around and tour the world and play beautiful places and make music. That’s a blessing and that’s a pretty blessed life. So, I think in our heart or hearts, old guys like us–we appreciate it (laughs).”

  1. Leeann
    August 10, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Great article. I like this journalistic style here (
    sam’s articles too).

    He seems more mellow in this interview than he did in the last one that was posted here.

    I really like what he had to say about having to sing above ridiculously loud bands. I hate listening to that. I don’t like when the band mix is too loud and it sounds like the singer has to yell over them. It’s not a pleasant listening experience for me.

    I’m really looking forward to this album. Ever since the9513’s previous Malo interview, I’ve really gotten into his music. I even like the stuff that I didn’t appreciate before. He truly has a phenomonal voice.

  2. Ken Morton, Jr.
    August 10, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Janet, fantastic first piece for The 9513. If this great interview is any indication, you’ll be a terrific addition to the writing team here.

  3. Bob
    August 10, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I agree with the previous comments about this interview.

    I’ve been to concerts where the music was too loud and I always found it distressing. I never thought of it from the perspective of the vocalist who has to strain to overcome the noise.

    “Matter Much to You” is on you-tube, a video from the Key West Song Festival mentioned in the article. The video quality is not that great but the song is.

    I’ve seen Malo in concert and he truly is a great vocalist. I loved his “You’re Only Lonely” album which I think was all cover songs except for 1 track. I wasn’t as crazy about the material in the follow-up “After Hours”. I’ll have to check out “Lucky One” and the new cd when it’s released.

  4. Jeremy Dyan
    August 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    One of the great modern singers.

  5. Sam G.
    August 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve read interviews and heard Malo on the radio where he comes across as a bit prickly, and I agree, this is a much more mellow article. “The Lucky One” was a brilliant album, and I’m now really looking forward to the new one as well.

    Very well-written story, too.

  6. Cutting the Treacle
    August 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    “there were all these songs on country radio done by country artists that were promoting intolerance that I thought was just amazing to me. All these songs about taking Texas back, and keeping your guacamole here and getting the illegals out. Then you saw the Tea Party thing, and now it’s become a reality–it’s incredible.”

    What are the titles of “all these songs” Malo is talking about? And what does the anti-illegal immigration thing have to do with the Tea Party? And what does the Tea Party have to do with intolerance? Idiot.

  7. Stormy
    August 11, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    The tea party is pretty intollerant and working to get illegals, and possibly legal, Mexicans out of the country. At least one of the songs he is talking about is that horrible Buddy Jewell screed.

  8. Cutting the Treacle
    August 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I had no idea Buddy Jewell had a hit. What was the name? And direct me to the Tea Party’s position paper on getting legal immigrants out (or illegal immigrants for that matter). The few Tea Party types I know tremble with rage about the federal budget, but they haven’t said anything to me about immigration. But then I don’t run in the same Tea Party circles as Raul Malo probably.

  9. Dan Milliken
    August 11, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Not an expert, but I know the Tea Party has come under controversy for some of its members yelling racist and homophobic slurs at congresspeople and the like. I don’t know whether that’s indicative or the group as a whole, but it does put them in a rather bad light.

  10. Dan Milliken
    August 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Sorry – I was responding generally to Treacle’s question about what the Tea Party has to do with intolerance. I have no idea what they think about immigration.

  11. Leeann
    August 11, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    He never said the song was a hit, but it does exist.

  12. Brady Vercher
    August 11, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Dan, the actions of a few people shouldn’t be used against the group as a whole, as I’m sure there are a few bad apples in just about any group.

  13. Leeann
    August 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Actually, if you really look at Malo’s quote, he doesn’t say that the tea party has anything to do with anti immigration. As far as the intolerence thing, it’s hard not to judge a group when the loudest people do seem pretty intolerant.

  14. Leeann
    August 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I will add that I agree that we shouldn’t though, even though I totally do.

  15. Chris N.
    August 11, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Pretty much all the prominent “Tea Party” politicians today are virulently anti-immigrant. That’s because “Tea Party” is just a new name for the extreme right. If they really cared about the deficit they would have said something about it during the Bush presidency.

  16. Stormy
    August 11, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Brady: Then maybe the group wants to rethink its spokespeople.

  17. Cutting the Treacle
    August 11, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Dan – “Not an expert, but I know the Tea Party has come under controversy for some of its members yelling racist and homophobic slurs at congresspeople and the like”

    Me: Yeah, I read the articles in the Times. I even saw where particular Congressman alleged it occurred – Congressmen who were being taped at the time of the alleged slurs. But I never saw the evidence – just the allegations. I don’t believe in allegations, and I don’t believe in the wisdom of stars and starlets playing politics. But when they do, I believe in crucifying them. That’s all.

  18. Cutting the Treacle
    August 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Leeann – “He never said the song was a hit, but it does exist.”

    Me: That’s exactly what he implied with his conclusion that country music is the mouth piece of the right wing. If these songs are not hits, i.e., if country music is ignoring them, then his point makes no sense. So either he’s an idiot (at least in the political sphere) or he’s willfully misleading. In either event, the options are not encouraging.

  19. Leeann Ward
    August 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    You read a lot into his statement.

  20. Leeann Ward
    August 11, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Back when I was “right wing”, I remember being proud that country music was as well. Now that I’m not so conservative anymore, I’m not so proud, but I still think it’s predominantly conservative. I don’t understand why people deny that it is.

  21. Leeann Ward
    August 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Back on track with this article, I agree that he’s really good at choosing and writing great melodies. That’s important to me, which is probably one of the reasons I’m drawn to his music.

  22. Cutting the Treacle
    August 12, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Leeann – “You read a lot into his statement.”

    Me – Who’s reading anything into this? What he said speaks for itself: “there were all these songs on country radio done by country artists that were promoting intolerance that I thought was just amazing to me. All these songs about taking Texas back, and keeping your guacamole here and getting the illegals out. Then you saw the Tea Party thing, and now it’s become a reality–it’s incredible. We wrote “Matter Much to You” about a year ago. It was really our answer to that, to that intolerance. . .
    I think it’s hard to argue that country music is the mouthpiece of the right wing.”

    Leeann – “Back on track with this article”

    Me – We never got off track. The article is, in part, about the political beliefs of Malo and how he incorporates them into his music. As far as I can tell on this thread, no one has introduced any new topic that’s not raised in the article itself.

  23. Leeann Ward
    August 12, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Arguing with you about the Tea Party is off track. I’m done. I know how we go around in circles. You can do it with somebody else from now on.

  24. Leeann Ward
    August 12, 2010 at 7:20 am

    One more thing, then you can have the last word with me. I don’t care if you disagree with his position; it’s calling him an “idiot” because of his perception, even if it’s wrong, that ticks me off. I know you’re proud of your cutting through the treacle-ness (ha!), but civil discourse has broken down because of people like you who resort to name calling when you disagree with people’s political stances. I hate that more than anything that I see on blogs.

  25. Stormy
    August 12, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Leeann Ward
    August 11, 2010 at 9:55 pm Permalink Back when I was “right wing”, I remember being proud that country music was as well. Now that I’m not so conservative anymore, I’m not so proud, but I still think it’s predominantly conservative. I don’t understand why people deny that it is.

    Because, off the top of my head I can think of less than 10 artists who are conservative and dozens who are liberal. And that’s if I let the conservatives have Merle.

  26. Leeann Ward
    August 12, 2010 at 8:00 am

    I’m referring to mainstream country music, not Americana. Who are the dozens of liberals who are in the mainstream?

  27. Cutting the Treacle
    August 12, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Leeann – Malo is an idiot for (A) saying things like “play[ing] up the redneck thing . . . promotes intolerance”; (B) suggesting that there is a barrage of anti-immigrant country songs all over country radio when – at least based on this thread – it sounds like there might be one song by Buddy Jewell that fits the bill; (C) asserting that country music is “supposed to be about the downtrodden, the poor, and the meek” – gee, I don’t remember the Committee for the Regulation of Proper Subjects of Country Music requiring country music basically needs to track the Sermon on the Mount.

    You may see the inherent wisdom in what Malo says, but I see college-freshman level idiocy from aloof entertainers.

    And for the record, I’m not superfluously introducing the Tea Party as a topic of discussion; my search for the term “Tea Party” on this page suggests it first arises from a quote by Malo himself. If this should not have been a topic for discussion on this thread, then the editor should have deleted that portion of the interview.

  28. Cutting the Treacle
    August 12, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Stormy – “And that’s if I let the conservatives have Merle.”

    Me – I don’t know what’s conservative about Merle. Individualistic? Sure. And lots of people confuse that for conservatism.

    As for the left-right split in Nashville that Malo raised in his interview, I do know that the special interest group, Music Row Democrats, was formed by country artists and insiders to support Democrats. Their webiste has pictures of JFK and Natalie Maines, so you know they’re probably correct.

  29. WAYNOE
    August 12, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Few care about Malo. And did you have to mention Maines’ name?

  30. Jon
    August 12, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Few care about Malo.

    You speaking on behalf of the industry again, Waynoe?

  31. Leeann Ward
    August 12, 2010 at 9:20 am

    It’s unfortunate if few care about him.

  32. Jon
    August 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Well, I don’t particularly care about him – his singing just doesn’t do much for me – but I try not to confuse myself with the world at large, or to confuse making statements about my own taste with making statements about anyone else’s. Malo’s got enough fans that he’s making a living with his music, which is more than can be said for Waynoe; in fact, by Waynoe’s own standards, he ought to be shutting up about other peoples’ music around about now – either that or rethinking those standards.

  33. Leeann Ward
    August 12, 2010 at 9:30 am

    My favorite album of his is The Nashville Acoustic Sessions. I’m not saying you’d like it, but have you heard it?

  34. Matt Bjorke
    August 12, 2010 at 9:33 am

    All this conjecture is why I like to keep politics out of my music listening habits. I may not agree ideologically with some of ‘em (say John Rich) but if I hear a good song from him, I will – and have – write about it positively.

  35. Jon
    August 12, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Yeah, I have. Like I said, his singing’s just not for me. That happens sometimes ;-).

  36. Leeann Ward
    August 12, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Fair enough. I actually typically don’t like crooners, but he works for me.

  37. BIll Maier
    August 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Great article!

  38. WAYNOE
    August 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm


    Yes and you would know that if you ran reference on his career after he went solo. That’s in the context of mainstream. There are many people who make a living in the music world. People make a living working at Wal-Mart as well. Where do you work Jon?

    However, the guy can sure sing. Do not doubt his excellent talent.

  39. Jon
    August 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Well, who said anything about the context of mainstream, Waynoe? You sure didn’t. And I’m going to guess that Malo’s doing better than the typical Wal-Mart employee, so I’m not sure what the point of mentioning them is. Oh, right – you disagree with his politics, so therefore you want to disparage his career.

    After all that big noise you made about how you have to be a successful musician to criticize musicians, it turns out you don’t even meet your own dang standard – and, of course, given that you haven’t been a successful music journalist, either, you don’t really have much ground (by your way of looking at things) to criticize music journalists, either. Doesn’t your inconsistency ever bother you?

  40. WAYNOE
    August 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm


    Now now. Settle down. Don;t get your comb-over in an uproar.

  41. Kelly
    August 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Jon – not to get all buddy-buddy with you, but I’ve asked that question of Waynoe a million times and he ducks it on every occasion. Hypcritcal, indeed.

  42. luckyoldsun
    August 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Country music may be associated with the right wing, but the artists who are straight, predictable right wingers tend to be the hacks. The great ones tend to espouse humanistic and occasionally even liberal sensibilities–i.e. Cash, Dolly, Willie, Waylon or to avoid politics entirely–i.e. Jones. Merle is all over the map and has written and recorded some very liberal songs, along with his more famous right wing rabble rousers.

  43. Jon
    August 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Wow, there’s a gross generalization. Or at least a mighty short list of great country artists.

  44. WAYNOE
    August 13, 2010 at 7:00 am


    Ask again what you want me to respond to and I will post it back to you. I don’t want you to feel left out.

  45. WAYNOE
    August 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

    My Take:

    First of all, I speak in the general sense and there are always exceptions. No doubt most if any responses will be centered on the exceptions. But like it or not, “most” listeners to music primarily are caught by the melodies of the song and the presentation of the singer/group.

    Secondly it appears to me that the way the artist is marketed, image if you will, is another component to the acceptance for the general audience. They may not be experts with song and lyric construction, but most listeners are simply people who like music for the way it sounds and appeals to them.

    Another aspect is the bias that an individual has. A recent comment on Rodney Adkins song “Farmer’s Daughter” stated, “Here, perhaps country music’s most family-friendly singer in a generation “dad-gums” and golly-gees his way through a piece of contemporary fluff that only proves his music to be fundamentally comprised of the genre’s most basic stereotypes. With a catalog full of songs that primarily includes topics like America, “values,” kids and rural life, Atkins has established himself as an artist more concerned with motif than character.” It appears that the themes referred to here are not the reviewer’s preference.

    Journalists are, or are assumed to be, experts on words. That can be hotly debated at times with ample examples to support supporters and detractors. Lyrical construction, song themes, and other related items tend to be what are more referred to in reviews. At least that is my assumption. It seems like the darker and more controversial the lyrics are the better the reviews on some blogs.

    Most music fans do not request a lyric sheet before they decide to listen to and like a certain song. It’s not that it isn’t important. It’s just that it isn’t a prerequisite to most people initially. Again, I am not speaking of the exceptions. One noted exception is Jamey Johnson’s “In Color”. Here, you have a great presentation, the image, and the strong theme all rolled into one. A perfect storm of musical genius. They don’t come along that often.

    So we will continue to debate the merits of criticism and the qualifications of those who give it. We will fight and fuss and kick each other over syntax and style. Is a music journalist without musical training any more qualified to critique a song than a person who knows music but is not a trained journalist? However, the general public couldn’t care less about opinions that we have. They simply do not read the rating before they decide if they like the song or the singer. For that we can all be thankful.

    So to sum up my little diatribe, the melody, the vocal presentation, the image, and the bias are to me what most people initially judge as to whether they like a song or not. And my opinions will not make a darn bit of difference to most, if any, music lovers. And neither will yours, but it is a heck of a lot of fun thinking that they will.

  46. Kelly
    August 13, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Waynoe – I’ve called you out multiple times for your hypcritical stance when it comes to critics and how that, by your own expressed standards, arent qualified to be critical of.

  47. WAYNOE
    August 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Seems to me Kelly that no one is qualified to be a critic, or maybe “everyone” is depending on how you look at it.

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