A marginal improvement over 2006’s lifeless You’re Only Lonely, Raul Malo’s After Hours still suffers from an all-too-tasteful production and wants for the fire he brought to his recordings with The Mavericks throughout the 1990s. Whereas its predecessor trotted out tired standards—Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home” and the like—After Hours draws from the well of mainstream country. Unfortunately, his song selection isn’t much more inspired this time out, though there’s certainly no faulting his taste in choosing songs by Hank Williams, Roger Miller, Buck Owens, and two cuts by Dwight Yoakam. By reconfiguring these songs into featherweight lite-jazz arrangements, Malo and producer Evan York keep the focus on the stellar melodies of these songs. That’s an admirable goal, since country songs aren’t often known for the strength of their compositions. If nothing else, After Hours showcases that many of the genre’s staples have melodic hooks that hold up alongside those of You’re Only Lonely‘s pop standards, and that sense of purpose keeps the album from being a rote, pointless covers exercise like Martina McBride’s Timeless. Malo is in typically fine voice throughout the album, and he’s changed the arrangements of the songs just enough to flex his interpretive skill. The only true misfire is the uptempo, Calypso-inflected cover of Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart.” It doesn’t suit the song at all, but it’s at least spirited in a way that the rest of the album is not.
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