Raul Midón - Don't Hesitate (2014)

Raul Midón
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Raul Midon has a gift that goes beyond his skills as a vocalist, lyricist and guitarist and his ability to transform his voice into a trumpet. Every Raul Midon record contains at least one track where he sublimely captures the essence of whatever topic he decides to address. “All In Your Mind,” the last track on his breakout record State of Mind, is perhaps the most beautiful explanation of how a blind person relates to the world of objects and feeling that I have ever heard. Midon allows the listener to understand how his other senses interact with his fertile imagination to create a world of powerful emotions and vivid colors and feelings.

Raul Midon has a gift that goes beyond his skills as a vocalist, lyricist and guitarist and his ability to transform his voice into a trumpet. Every Raul Midon record contains at least one track where he sublimely captures the essence of whatever topic he decides to address. “All In Your Mind,” the last track on his breakout record State of Mind, is perhaps the most beautiful explanation of how a blind person relates to the world of objects and feeling that I have ever heard. Midon allows the listener to understand how his other senses interact with his fertile imagination to create a world of powerful emotions and vivid colors and feelings.

“A Song For Sandra” from A World Within a World is an achingly sad tune sung from the point of a person trying to unsuccessfully to desensitize himself from the pain of losing is mother at an early age before embracing the fact that his mother will always be with him. Then there’s “About You,” from Synthesis, a track that finds Midon releasing the pent up anger at a trusted friend who betrayed his loyalty. The track is raw, intense and finds the singer/songwriter using an obscenity in the hook to punctuate his lingering pain and bitterness.

“Libertad,” the first track on Don’t Hesitate, Midon’s latest recording, is an eloquent explanation of the factors that push people out of their native lands of Mexico and Central America and toward the United States. Midon, who hails from a state - New Mexico - that is on the US-Mexico border, captures the zeitgeist of the time and a place where immigration reform has become an on again-off again political football. The cut is propelled by Midon’s Latin tinged acoustic guitar playing and percussion, telling the story of a 21 year old who chases the dream of freedom and prosperity to the United States but dies violently at the hands of human traffickers or maybe border security. “Libertad” is an example of how Midon continues to grow as a song writer and story teller. The artist paints a picture with his lyrics: “Crossing over the borderline/Mesmerized by freedom/Hypnotized by the city lights/You’re reaching out to meet em/Tempted away from the ones you love/Into the land of plenty/All alone in a crowded place/At the age of one and twenty.”

I heard Midon on the NPR program Here and Now and the interviewer talked about how this album has more of a political tinge than his previous works that included some great ballads. The interviewer likely had tracks such as “Libertad” and the peace anthem “Time Machine” in mind when he made that comment. However, Don’t Hesitate contains more than its share of love songs. 

“If You Want Me To” begins with Midon playing the melody on his guitar accompanied by percussion before the hook. Then, the tune moves into a bossa nova arrangement with lyrics that tell the story of a woman who secretly loved a man beneath her station in order to make a larger point to the object of desire that rejecting true love carries risks.

“Was It Every Really Love” is classic Midon, with his acoustic guitar mixing with bass playing, and the shakers combining with Richard Hammond’s upright bass playing to give the track an intimate feel that is nonetheless spacious enough for Midon’s sweet vocals on this track about a man trying to figure out when a romance stalled. “We’ve been growing further apart, lately/I don’t even know who you are, baby/If we could only turn back the time, maybe/We could hold the feeling inside.”

Don’t Hesitate also contains several notable collaborations: “Keep Holding On” is a duet that pairs Midon with another artist comfortable with the acoustic and folksy side of soul – Lizz Wright. Midon’s rangy vocals meshes well with Wright’s strong voice that is steeped in the church and the red clay of her Georgia upbringing. “Mi Amigo Cubano” is a Spanish language number that Midon co-wrote with Bill Withers, and the creative fingerprints of both can be heard in the acoustic guitar arrangement.

Midon’s story is one that plenty of music fans would find relatable. He has a twin brother who works for NASA. Both men were blinded at birth as a result of spending time in an incubator without adequate eye protection. Their mother died when the boys were young and they were raised by their father, a folkloric dancer from Argentina who used music as a form of therapy. He turned his son onto the music of soul legends such as Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway and both played a major role in Midon’s musical development. You can hear shades of Hathaway in Midon’s vocals, and Wonder has been a frequent collaborator.

In a career that has always been critically notable, Raul Midon has never played for “flavor of the month” commercial success. So, as with past albums, fans won’t hear Don’t Hesitate on commercial radio. But the world has long moved past equating radio play with quality, and this album again confirms that some of the best and most interesting music in 2014 is found by departing from the beaten path.

On a personal note, I can testify to the power of Midon’s music as a healing agent. His State of Mind was one of the records I kept on repeat after being diagnosed with cancer and then going through radiation and chemotherapy back in 2005. I’d throw his CD on and the chills from the chemo didn’t seem quite as biting. I’d like to thank him for that, and for creating another album that will serve as musical balm for another generation of listeners in need of spiritual, emotional and physical healing. Strongly Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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