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.
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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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