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Dance the night away with Raul Malo

Patrick Caldwell

The 45-year-old Americana master and Roy Orbison-styled crooner Raul Malo once ascended to the loftiest heights of commercial success, as leader of the Grammy Award-winning and platinum-selling alternative country outfit the Mavericks. He’s equally used to the sting of a record that flopped - his albums since striking out solo with 2001’s “Today” have performed inconsistently.

To hear Malo tell it, he’s stopped caring about such things.

“I’m used to both. I’m used to having hit records and not having hit records,” Malo said this week. “I can survive any way. To me you just kind of have to keep on swimming. I’m like a shark. If I stop swimming, I sink.”

Malo’s constant momentum is more a help than a hindrance. Always one to chafe under stylistic expectations - he was born in Miami to Cuban parents and consequently is versed in a wide array of styles and influences - he’s taken advantage of that restlessness across his expansive albums. He’ll play selections from throughout his career Friday night at Antone’s, performing a solo acoustic set to benefit the Christmas Bureau of Austin.

Much of the set will be drawn from 2009 album “Lucky One,” his broadest effort yet. It’s a carefully guided journey through zoot-suit anthems, romantic ballads, moments of Latin soul and excursions into honky tonk. It’s an adventurous album that fears only thing: categorization.

“That’s part of the freedom that I have now and that I enjoy. I don’t have to be worried about the needs of a musical genre in particular,” Malo said. “Once you’re successful in one genre, it’s like they just want you to keep doing that over and over again. But to me, it’s just music. Music shouldn’t be in one genre.”

But then, “Lucky One” might touch on so many bases precisely because it’s the musical equivalent of the burst of water generated by untying a knotted garden hose. It’s Malo’s first solo album of original material in seven years, after a series of cover albums and a Christmas album.

“Man, that really just happened. It was just a strange set of circumstances,” Malo said. “One thing after another happened and it just kind of snowballed into me doing three covers records in a span of not that much time.”

That long sojourn into playing the material of others did leave him with a healthy backlog of songs that made for a speedy writing and recording process. He also had time to get comfortable with the new material in the comfort of his own home studio, which led to three of his original demo tracks showing up on the finished product.

That same crafted-at-home approach will be apparent on his next two albums: another solo record and an album of Spanish songs, which Malo expects to release next year.

Some songs from his upcoming projects might make an appearance tonight, but take heart - Malo doesn’t intend to neglect more seasonal tunes.

“I will play some Christmas stuff, definitely,” said Malo. “But it won’t be the full-on Andy Williams kind of holiday show that we did last year.”

An Intimate Evening with Raul Malo takes place at 7 p.m. Friday at Antone’s, 213 W. Fifth St. $25