The Mavericks - MONO
Following last year’s critically-acclaimed ‘comeback’ IN TIME album, the Mavericks return with what might be a stronger, even more cohesive collection in MONO. The whole spectrum of the Mavericks’ genre-busting repertoire is on display here. A diverse set in spirit as well as musical feeling, it hearkens back to adventurous musical experiments by such country pioneers as Bob Wills, who initially met resistance for bringing jazz and swing elements into country. Encompassing strains of country-rock, swing, Latin-American, lush country-pop, honky-tonk and mainstream country, this record’s versatility and sense of adventure makes a vivid living document. It was because of the band’s eccentric zeal and often heroic individualism that eclipsed any arbitrary etiquette, crossover roadblocks, or gatekeeping conservatism, that their music has evolved the way it has. Fearless and dismissive of the constraints of American country radio, they have retraced the footsteps of Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Glen Campbell and other crossover stars of the past, in taking country music to a much larger audience, especially here in the UK, where many of their fans are now hooked into the music big time.
From the powerful lead off All Night Long with its stomping guitar hook assaults and soaring vocal harmonies, the band volleys a wave of rhythmically-charged songs. Emotionally intense yet also melodic and tender, the song draws you in with both its beauty and power. Raul Malo, the Mavericks’ lynchpin, wrote or co-wrote eleven of the dozen songs bringing extraordinary insight and a distinctly cinematic vision to this rich musical journey into the American experience with vivid imagery, haunting characters, and contagious hooks. His voice is a unique tool of heart and passion, as he shows on Summertime (When I’m With You). A throwback to 1960s pop, with its breezy harmonies and horns as a foundation, the chorus is downright irresistible, permanently sticking to the brain upon impact. There’s a vulnerability and a certain sophistication that comes out of his classic song structures. This is apparent with What Am I Supposed To Do Without You, a soulful, pop-soaked strummer with plaintive, high-lonesome harmonies and a sharply, jangling edge.
Stories We Could Tell has been goosed with percolating rhythms and a wise injection of old-school pop and Let It Rain (On Me) receives a kind of delicate Roy Orbison treatment. Out The Door is a classic country two-stepper that blends Buck Owens and Ray Price traces without in any way sounding like either. What You Do To Me and Doug Sahm’s Nitty Gritty are an interesting fusion of country, rock and Latin. Albums created with such abandon and persistence are uncommon, and Raul Malo and his four band-mates’ pursuit of their art is itself a rare thing. That it yields music that is so brilliant makes it all the more remarkable. MONO is entertaining, highly listenable and a very exciting record to play and play and play.