BMI transformed its cavernous reception hall into a quasi-intimate supper club Tuesday evening (July 31) to support Raul Malo's live preview of his new album, After Hours. In this collection, the former lead singer of the Mavericks puts a sophisticated, jazz-inflected spin on 10 country standards.
During the hour before Malo made his appearance, guests crowded around the fully stocked bar (where mint-laden mojitos seemed to be the drink of choice) or clustered at brightly topped tables decorated with bouquets of paper lanterns. Uniformed waiters bearing trays circulated through the throng, offering cunningly shaped hors d'oeuvres of uncertain provenance.
The black-backdropped stage erected at one end of the hall sat littered with musical instruments, specifically a grand piano, two saxophones, an electric guitar, an acoustic bass and a small drum kit.
Clad in black trousers and a black shirt embroidered with red roses, Malo strolled into the room about five minutes before he went on stage. Well-wishers immediately surrounded him, among them fellow vocalist, Mandy Barnett, who later told CMT.com that she has just completed recording an album of "torch songs from the '20s" titled Between You and Me.
"It's just amazing the people who are in this room today," remarked BMI's Jody Williams after he called the crowd to order. "All the big labels, all the publishers ... it just shows what happens when you have a really cool performer."
Strapping on his electric guitar, Malo opened with a dreamy "Welcome to My World," the song first made famous by Jim Reeves and later elevated to classic status by Eddy Arnold.
The combo then shifted into a bopping, pulsating rendering of the Hank Snow hit, "(Now and Then, There's) A Fool Such As I." Next came a yearning cover of "For the Good Times" that rivaled Ray Price's original for intensity and wistfulness.
Critics will no doubt argue over the wisdom of Malo revving up Hank Williams' funereal "Cold, Cold Heart" into a boogie. But it certainly worked for this crowd. A couple near the stage began dancing and many others bounced up and down as though tethered to pogo sticks.
Malo paid tribute to Dwight Yoakam via "Pocket of a Clown" and "It Only Hurts Me When I Cry" and then ended the show with a suitably somber reading of Buck Owens' "Crying Time."
The crowd whistled and applauded for more. But when Malo declined to return to the stage, they sought solace in more mojitos.