Raul Malo, Pat Flynn, Rob Ickes, and Dave Pomeroy

The Nashville Acoustic Sessions (CMH)

Raul Malo, lead vocalist and leader of the Mavericks, has one of the best voices in pop. In several recent interviews Malo said he spent the early years of his career trying to "not sound like Roy Orbison," the singer he was most often compared with. But since signing onto the Los Super Seven side project in the late Nineties, Malo has unleashed his pipes and produced some stunning music, including these Nashville Acoustic Sessions, a delirious collection of bare-bones performances.

The backing tracks feature stellar back-up from Pat Flynn (guitar), Rob Ickes (dobro), and Dave Pomeroy (bass), but the spotlight remains on Malo's vocals and his ability to growl out a brokenhearted country lament and caress a pop standard with understated yearning. On a rendition of the Louvin Brothers' "Great Atomic Power," Malo's chorus echoes the mountain harmonies of the original, while his broken grace notes on a version of Hank Williams, Sr.'s "Weary Blues from Waiting" will bring a lump to your throat. Other unexpected covers include Deek Watson and William Best's "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons," which the quartet transforms into a Patsy Cline-style torch song, and Van Morrison's "Bright Side of the Road," played as a country blues, with solid work by guest harp blower Jim Hoke.

 
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