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The Mavericks

Saturday, December 6

It's been five years since a new Mavericks disc graced the bins. The Miami band never broke up -- instead they took a working sabbatical. Vocalist Raul Malo recorded a solo album, did some producing and appeared on Canto, the second Los Super Seven album, while bassist Robert Reynolds played in Swag, a supergroup of sorts with members of Wilco, Sixpence None the Richer and Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson. Now the Mavs are back with new guitar player Eddie Perez and a new self-titled disc on a new record label.

Over the years, the band has reaped their share of success on country radio, but their music has little in common with the bile-inducing pap of nationalistic lunkhead Toby Keith or the generic Texas yee-haw drivel of Pat Green that currently pollutes the charts and airwaves. After a couple of early records, their sound evolved into something that couldn't easily be pigeonholed, and while those responsible for narrowly defined country radio playlists saw this as a weakness, their broad stylistic palette and Malo's voice have always been their strengths.

The Mavericks continues along the many-flavored buffet they cooked up on their last two discs, Music for All Occasions and Trampoline. Malo's "I Want to Know" kicks off the disc with propulsive country-rock and a defiant demand for meaning in a world gone crazy: "I want to know why the devil's not run dry / I want to know why politicians lie / I want to know why nobody gets high." Later, Malo shows off his impressive range -- he reaches positively Orbisonian heights on the lushly orchestrated "In My Dreams." Other highlights are the Latin-styled "Shine a Light" and the exuberant Patsy Cline-flavored "I'm Wondering," which Malo co-wrote with honky-tonkin' Pasadena native Dale Watson. The unexpected jewel is "Time Goes By," the obligatory guest-star duet with Willie Nelson. In contrast to most of these bling-bling affairs, wherein the song is secondary to the mere presence of the big name guest, this one offers rootsy Southern soul, nicely punched up with tart horn work.

Emerging from the shadows of a five-year sabbatical, 
the Mavericks return on December 6.
Emerging from the shadows of a five-year sabbatical, the Mavericks return on December 6.

These Mavericks did drop a couple of horsepies. "Would You Believe" sounds like bad Blood, Sweat and Tears lite. And there's also a truly hideous version of the Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe," a studio goof that claims the title as the worst song they've ever released.

But a couple of throwaway cuts probably won't affect the live show. Good reports from the road plus the three-piece horn section they're bringing along should make for a lively evening, and the opening set from Texas buzz band Los Lonely Boys is a good bonus.

 
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