Nashville singer Raul Malo, who first made his name as front man for Music City outcats the Mavericks, rolls into town Wednesday for a gig at Joe's. On his solo records Malo has consistently nailed a retro feel, and unlike many artists treading similar turf, he doesn't come off as a creatively bankrupt hack exploiting other people's nostalgia to make a buck. With a voice like his--a gorgeous blend of keening Roy Orbison pathos and cool Frank Sinatra swagger--"retro" is the only path it'd make any sense for him to follow. It's not his fault he was born in the wrong decade.
For this show Malo will likely trot out some holiday songs--last year he released an entire album of Christmas tunes, unfortunately titled Marshmallow World & Other Holiday Favorites--but the real treat will be the material he's previewing from Lucky One (Fantasy), his first album of originals since 2001's Today. Produced by Steve Berlin of Lobos, it's due in March. Stylistically it plays to Malo's strengths: Hollywood-style Afro-Cuban son, Tex-Mex stompers, romantic ballads, countrypolitan honky-tonk. He ain't reinventing the wheel, but he sure can roll it smooth.
Zingaro/Regef/DeJoode String Trio, Spectrum (Clean Feed)
Thao With the Get Down Stay Down, We Brave Bee Stings and All (Kill Rock Stars)
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (Universal Motown)
Luiz Bonfa & Maria Toledo, Braziliana (Verve)
Bernard, Emer, Lackner & Ferber, Night for Day (BJU)