|Personnel: Raul Malo (vocals, acoustic guitar); Raul Malo; Dave Pomeroy (bass guitar); Pat Flynn (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, background vocals); Rob Ickes (slide guitar, dobro, background vocals); Jim Hoke (harmonica); Lenny Castro (percussion); Siedah Garrett (background vocals).
|True to its title, The Nashville Acoustic Sessions is a set of acoustic-based music that finds the Mavericks frontman Raul Malo collaborating with three well-respected Nashville musicians (guitarist/mandolinist Pat Flynn, Rob Ickes, and bassist Dave Pomeroy). The acoustic setting results in much more pared-down arrangements than Malo's recent records (whether with his band or his one solo outing, 2001's Today). This disc of cover tunes is also Malo's most twang-centric in years; however, it doesn't lack eclecticism. Songs are drawn from country icons Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Louvin Brothers, as well as more contemporary figures like Gordon Lightfoot, Gram Parsons, and Bob Dylan; there are also a pair of standards: "Moon River" and "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons." The disc starts off with a solid yet obvious selection, Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," as Malo's vocals have long been compared to Orbison. Although he doesn't soar to Orbison's otherworldly heights, his passionate singing conveys the song's melancholy mood. After a decent but rather sedate rendering of Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain," the album picks up steam with the gospel-tinged Louvin Brothers tune "Great Atomic Power," which is followed by an aching rendition of Williams' "Weary Blues From Waiting," and Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," which gets a spry country workout here. The disc's second half -- demarcated by an "instrumental break" of Jimmie Rodgers' "Waiting for a Train" -- is more of a mixed bag. The highlights include strong versions of Gram Parsons' "Hot Burrito #1" and Van Morrison's "Bright Side of the Road." However, both "Moon River" and "Sentimental Reasons" come off sounding a bit too lounge. These tunes accentuate the slicker qualities of Malo's otherwise wonderfully rich vocals. The nimble but easygoing performances delivered by the trio of instrumentalists perfectly suit this disc's relaxed feel. Flynn and Ickes particularly stand out on the touching version of "When I Stop Dreaming," the record's other Louvin Brothers number. While this all-covers collection doesn't reinvent the wheel, it provides 40 minutes of classic tunes delightfully done up as good, old-fashioned country music. ~ Michael Berick