THE MAVERICKS NEW ALBUM, PLAY THE HITS, CELEBRATES THEIR 30 YEARS OF MUSIC AND THE SONGS THAT INSPIRED IT
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Can it really have been 30 years since that first gig in Miami? “The first thing that comes to mind is that damn, I’m old!” laughs the one and only Raul Malo, the singular and immense voice at the front of one of the most dynamic, eclectic, audacious and downright charming bands in country music history. He continues, “I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t look back. I’m always looking for the next song, the next gig. And you know what the achievement is? We’ve made a life out of this thing! We’ve put the kids through school, raised families; you realize that it’s taken you all over the world, and look at this life you’ve cultivated. You did it — it was a dream — and here you are, deeply appreciative of it.”
Three decades in, The Mavericks are as popular as ever, with a diverse and devoted following. They’ve refused to be a nostalgia act. “People come and yell for the newer songs,” enthuses longtime auxiliary keyboardist and sharp dresser Jerry Dale McFadden. Drummer and co-founder Paul Deakin has a perspective on the durability of the band: “The reason for our longevity is that we’ve been able to take control of the music we play, how we play it, and where and when we play it. We’ve made enough mistakes once, twice or three times, but now we run the show. We can keep the creative spark that’s so central to what we do.”
To celebrate their 30th, andpay tribute to artists and songs that have been part of the journey, the Mavericks give us a brand new album called Play the Hits (Mono Mundo Recordings, out November 1, 2019 wherever music is streamed and sold), featuring songs they cut their teeth on, all made famous by other people, disassembled and totally reimagined by the Mavericks as a testament to how great the songs are and how the band can get inside the material and make it their own.
The first single, “Swingin’,” is pure Mavericks audacity. John Anderson’s classic original is much loved, with no small part of its charm being his comic hayseed delivery. So, what happens when you strip that away? What you get is a classic Mavericks tune with a beat hard as nails and a singer who’s serious: he really IS going to go see Charlotte Johnson and sit on the front porch swing! And she’d better be ready too. (“I always thought that underneath, it could be a really sexy song.” Raul says.)
Now picture “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” taken way uptown, with sass, swagger … and horns! Later on, they take those horns to Vegas in 1959 in order to serve up a Rat Packed “Don’t Be Cruel.” And in one of the most successful Springsteeninterpretations, they take “Hungry Heart” back to the spirit of the people who inspired Bruce himself. It rolls along like a prime Fats Domino record, with party brass and lilting whiffs of Dion & the Belmonts. The party atmosphere tones down for some beautiful intimate moments, like the acoustic guitar treatment of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”
(featuring Flaco Jiménez), and Raul singing and playing “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” by himself, showing off not only his singing but his ability to get inside such disparate songs and find something uniquely his and the band’s.
Few bands have had a more fitting name than the Mavericks. When they first stood Nashville on its ear in the early ’90s — with hits like the insanely grooving rockabilly Tex Mex of “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” (featuring frequent participant Flaco), the straight-ahead heartland rock of “What a Crying Shame,” the incredible vocal of Raul’s on the Orbison-esque “Oh What a Thrill” — even the cool crowd embraced them, including the nascent Americana movement. It was the groove, everyone’s mastery at what they did, their refreshing combination of likeability and reality, and that fact that people subconsciously know a genuine band when they hear one, guys in this for life. The breadth and scope of their sound has as much to do with the songs of Raul’s Cuban American heritage as it does country stylings; and from the beginning, they’ve reflected elements of Sun Records, George Jones in his crew-cut days, gospel, Tejano, zydeco, ’50s and ’60s R&B, pop in all its meanings, plain old rock and roll — and anything else that has ever stoked their furnace!
In the long run, after 30 years? How would you sum up all that music? “The Mavericks in a way has been our experiment,” muses Raul. “It’s the ‘why not’ band. Why not just do it? It’s more fun that way. We’re not beholden to any one genre. We’re not beholden to anything. And you know, all it has to do is just sound good.” Yes, that’s about it.
Track listing and songwriter credits:
- Swingin’ (John David Anderson, Lionel A Delmore)
- Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way (Waylon Jennings)
- Blame It On Your Heart (Harlan Howard, Kostas Lazarides)
- Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me) (Hank Cochran)
- Before The Next Teardrop Falls (Vivian Keith, Ben Peters)
- Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen)
- Why Can’t She Be You (Hank Cochran)
- Once Upon A Time (feat. Martina McBride) (Barney Ales, Dave Hamilton, Clarence Paul, William Stevenson)
- Don’t Be Cruel (Otis Blackwell, Elvis Presley)
- Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain (Fred Rose)
- I’m Leaving It Up To You (Don Harris, Dewey Steven Terry)