Or is it all my imagination?
Last Friday, we went to see Raul Malo at the Byham Theater. Malo’s a very talented singer who used to be the front man for the Mavericks, an alt-country band that was quite popular for a while in the 90s and early 00s. He put out three solo albums since then, a couple of collaborations, and participated in a some tribute projects, most notably (to me), “Beautiful Dreamer-the Songs of Stephen Foster” in which he performed the title track. Malo’s voice is velvet. He has a Roy Orbison range with a Mel Torme’ timbre, and chooses material that is impeccably suited to his talent. The show was amazing. Not only is he an extraordinary singer, but he knows how to play to an audience, how to captivate, enthrall, and mystify. The show wasn’t sold out, but very nearly so, and while the Byham is a small theater, Malo seemed impressed with it, calling it “fancy” and “really beautiful”, stating that “y’all aren’t supposed to keep these! Get with the times! Knock it down and put up a wal mart or something!” which met with boos and laughter from the audience. An audience, by the way, who were very serious Raul Malo fans, judging from the banter, the back-and-forth, and the delivery to the stage of a bottle of tequila and four glasses by a contingent of well-dressed, giggly, 40-something women.
On the way home, Bob and I were discussing why the guy isn’t a huge star. He could be a huge star. He has the talent, the presence, the relationship with his audience. He has the chops, and the connections. He’s good looking, and knows how to work a room. He ought to be huge. He ought to be topping the charts the way Roy Orbison did. He ought to be saturating the pop and country airwaves. But he’s not. He has a small but devoted following among public radio listeners. He seems to sell enough records. He has a very talented small band that is suited to achieving the sound he’s seeking. He doesn’t seem to bother to memorize all the words to all the songs he does (he had to consult lyrics for Beautiful Dreamer, of all things!) but that’s just a matter of buckling down and doing it, plus, not all minds are suited to rote memorization.
Then it hit me. Maybe that’s enough for him.
What a concept! A performer who loves making music, and doesn’t care if he gets mega-famous. An old-school musician, who sings because he wants to sing, plays because he wants to play, shares with his audience instead of taking from them, and won’t concede a thing to the demands of the record industry, or MTV, or VH1 or CMT. A musician with principles? Is it even possible? A musician who makes a living and is modestly well-known without a huge ego or ten thousand lines of merchandise and a viral video on You Tube?
A blue-collar musician?
I don’t know if this is what he is. He may desire fame and fortune, a multi-million dollar record deal with videos in heavy rotation on CMT and play on all the ClearChannel stations twice an hour, a stadium tour, and he may just be falling short of it. But I doubt that’s the case. The sincerity, the obvious joy and enjoyment and the marvelous rapport with the audience, all said to me that he’s doing what he wants, on his own terms, and that, for once, maybe enough IS enough.
Go on, call me an idealistic sap. You’d probably be right. But if I could make 100K a year as a musician, I’d be the happiest girl on the face of the earth, and it would be enough for me.
I do know one thing as an absolute fact. If Raul Malo and k.d. lang ever did a record together, I’d die of joy. Probably on the spot. So guys, don’t do that, ok? At least not for another 40 years or so.
In other news, I've applied for supervisor at my job. They're hiring "10-20" supervisors county-wide, so the odds are in my favor, I think. I look at it this way-I dislike the job. I might as well dislike the job for a ten percent raise and not dealing with a caseload any more.
Finished objects continue to churn their way off of the ends of my knitting needles. I only need to finish my mom's shawl (almost done, maybe 20 more rows at about five, ten minutes a row), finish my father in law's scarf (also almost done, and chunky wool knitting up fast), one half a dishcloth, and one and one half socks. I'll have photos soon, I hope.