03 November, 2007

Raul Midón, soulatin pop

+ This man you have to discover. The first song in his new job, a world within a world, called pick somebody up uses
arrangements lost two decades ago. Those violins recall us of real soul music. His blend uses that old soul music adapted to today's pop taste. I am sure his producer, son of legendary Ariff Mardin, has hit the target with those wonderful songs.

+ Raul Midón, a New Mexico-born, New York-based writer/vocalist/guitarist burst onto the scene in 2005 with his audaciously original debut album, State of Mind, and he's followed it up with an even more memorable song cycle, one that substantiates the depth of his talent and the degree of his dedication. A World Within a World, the title of the new album (Manhattan Records, Sept. 25), might refer to the status of pop music within the culture as a whole; it could also describe the expansive interior realm that this single-minded artist, blind from birth, has created with his imagination.

+ Midón was born in Embudo, N.M., to an Argentinean father and an African-American mother. A passionate music lover for as long as he can remember, Midón started playing drums at age 4 before shifting his focus to the guitar. He turned down a scholarship in creative writing offered by the University of New Mexico after being selected by the University of Miami for its highly regarded jazz program. Staying in Miami after graduating, Midón became an in-demand backup singer, working primarily on Latin projects for artists like Julio Iglesias, Shakira and Alejandro Sanz, while moonlighting as a club performer, sprinkling the requisite cover songs with the original tunes he was starting to write.

In 2002, when Midón felt he was ready, he walked away from his lucrative profession in order to pursue a solo career in New York City. “I wanted to become an artist and do what I wanted to do instead of being someone else's hired gun,” he explains. When Midón performed for the legendary producer/arranger Arif Mardin, fresh off the recording of Norah Jones’ breakthrough album, Come Away With Me, he offered the newcomer a deal on the spot-it would be the final signing of Mardin's long career. Raúl readily accepted, eager to form a partnership with the highly skilled veteran and with Arif's multi-instrumentalist son Joe. Father and son co-produced State of Mind, which garnered critical accolades for its heady fusion of old-school soul, timeless pop, Latin, jazz and the singer/songwriter idiom. Intrigued by what the youngster was cooking up, Wonder himself appeared on one track.

For A World Within a World, recorded after the death of the elder Mardin, Midón and Joe Mardin tightened the focus, with Joe laying down the grooves and playing additional instruments behind Midón's vocals and guitar parts on the majority of the tracks. “Like his father, Joe is a producer in the old-school sense of the word,” says Midón. “He's interested in how a record sounds; he can do arrangements and conduct an orchestra-which he did on 'Pick Somebody Up.' Joe brought the value of making an album to the project, as opposed to just a collection of songs.”

This is not your average pop record-not by a long shot. With A World Within a World, Midón has fashioned an album that is at once audacious and accessible, of the moment and suffused with history; it's personal yet universal, uncompromising yet inviting. This is that rare sort of pop album that could actually make a difference, and as such, it stands right alongside the pivotal works of the artists who inspired it.

+ Please, visit his space to listen to some of his songs.

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