Vince Mira first captured attention as a singer when he was all of 15, gifted with a surprisingly deep singing voice that sounded eerily like Johnny Cash (here he is in 2007, performing on Good Morning America; “Ring of Fire” starts at the two-minute mark). Now he’s reinvented himself as a smoky-voiced lounge singer on El Radio.
After that first flush of success, Mira took a break after the release of his second album, Vince Mira, in 2008, getting married and raising a family. That new sense of stability is reflected in the music on El Radio, featuring all original songs written by Mira and his producer, Chris Pink (aka Chris Snell, artistic director of the Can Can cabaret, who first discovered Mira busking at the Pike Place Market).
The album is sequenced like a stage show, making it something of a concept album. It opens with the languorous, dreamy “Intro,” largely an instrumental aside from some “Whoa-oh-oh”’s from Mira, and punctuated by meandering trumpet and sax solos. There’s a decided air of sadness on the album, with songs of lost love like the regretful “What’s Been Left Behind,” “Sweet Magnolia,” a country-flavored song about a departed loved one, the crying-in-your-beer-please-return-to-me mournfulness of “Coming Home,” and the Spanish-language “Ella Ya Me Olvido” (“She forgot me”). The songs all have a rich, warm sound, with Mira’s acoustic guitar to the fore, and a poignant solo trumpet line invariably snaking through the number at some point.
It’s not all broken hearts. The melancholy is somewhat balanced by the more up tempo “True Love,” a song written for Mira’s wife that sweetly looks forward to growing old together: “Hand in hand, we won’t let go.”
But it’s the darkness that’s most evident throughout, and it must be said that’s what gives the album its edge. The evocatively titled “Flesh and Bones” grimly imagines said objects “on the floor/nothing more/nothing more.” Or consider “These Chains,” which leaves the lounge behind for a something much more grittier and raw, the story of a man on the lam and seeking redemption for some unnamed sin, a howl at midnight that sends a shiver up your spine.
Mira was right to not want to get pegged as, in his words, “the ‘Mexican Johnny Cash kid.’” On El Radio, he successfully carves out his own identity.