2015 CD REVIEW
THE MAVERICKS REIGN WITHOUT ROBERT REYNOLDS
“Whenever this old roads ends up winding through/ may it take me home so I can be with you/ as I lay in bed waiting for my dreams/ I'll rest my weary head and maybe get some sleep.” - Let It Rain On Me - Raul Malo.
Veteran Latin country combo The Mavericks have boomeranged to the studio and stage without co-founder bassist Robert Reynolds - for a good reason.
They fired Reynolds for alleged substance abuse in October 2014.
The bassist was replaced on tour by James Intveld who has worked with lead guitarist Eddie Perez.
Reynolds beat his band down under many moons ago on his first visit with former singing spouse Trisha Yearwood, now touring as Oklahoma superstar Garth Brooks' bride and duet partner.
Trisha and Garth made a surprise appearance on the Grand Ole Opry on June 19 but that may not have impacted as much as The Mavericks inspired concert at St Kilda Palais on October 1, 2014.
So far there are no plans announced for a third Australian visit by the band who formed in Miami in 1989.
But they will appear at the 16th Americana festival in Nashville - September 15-20 - with other Aussie tourists Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, Pokey LaFarge and Lindi Ortega.
Nouveau Melbourne band Raised By Eagles and Nu Country TV roots country staples Lee Ann Womack, Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen and Ray Wylie Hubbard also appear.
Meanwhile sweet solace for local fans is The Mavericks eighth studio album Mono that follows two live discs and countless compilations and collectors' items despite a hiatus from 2004-2013.
Lead singer Raul Malo, who released six solo albums in the break, wrote 11 tunes on Mono but not the fiery finale Nitty Gritty from the archive of Tex-Mex icon and former child prodigy Doug Sahm who went to God at 58 on November 18, 1989.
Accessible entrée is amorous aptly titled single All Night Long , accompanied by a video scheduled to air on Nu Country TV.
It's the first song here with a rain metaphor and bonus Latin verse for those who studied it at secondary school.
It segues into Summertime (When I'm With You) and the equally clever Malo-Alan Miller song Pardon Me where the not so lonely one night musical city stands of the band are wed to members' dalliances.
A seamy surrogate for true love, it would seem.
Malo's strong suit has long been the romance rivulets he navigates with delicious dexterity so it's no surprise there's a surfeit here.
The vanquished victims of love in What Am I Supposed To Do and big band fuelled What You Do To Me are punctuated by the self-explanatory jazzy jump blues of Stories We Could Tell penned with Wally Wilson.
“So if you knew me really well/ think of the stories you would tell/ about the greatest love in all of history/ two strangers in the night.”
Yes, Malo has long been the country Sinatra of his generation - without the teleprompter and rat pack of course.
Instead Malo has the hottest combo in the genre and they prove it throughout this gem that has its next precipitation pit-stop to wash way sorrow at song seven - Let It Rain (On Me.)
Pedants might perceive Malo borrowed his burning ring of fire imagery of the bluesy The Only Question Is from the late Merle Kilgore and June Carter Cash penned Johnny Cash hit.
But, no, Malo also rhymes “rainbow in the sky” with “apple of my eye” as he queries whether his quarry wants him to pursue her.
And, unlike Merle, he didn't try to extend the song's life and royalties by turning it into a Hemorrhoids commercial jingle.
WAITING FOR THE WORLD TO END
“And you may enter the gates of heaven/ while some are dying to be born again/ it's intuition, not superstition/ we're all waiting for the world to end.” - Waiting For The World To End - Raul Malo-Alan Miller.
Drummer Paul Deakin, guitarist Perez, who toured here with Kentuckian singing actor Dwight Yoakam, and pianist-organist Jerry Dale McFadden who once sang he loved being spanked while listening to Hank, are the touring and studio hard core.
This time the Fantastic Four horn section - Michael Guerra, Max Abrams, Paul Armstrong and Jay Weaver - fleshes out the dance band on - and with - Satanic splendour.
Song shrinks may drown in self-pity if they over-analyse Malo's melancholia.
Sure, the assertive roots country of Out The Door - where the character questions the wisdom of reliving a ruptured romance - and joyous Waiting For The World To End may hint at despair.
But the soulful delivery eradicates any notion of resorting to metaphoric self-harm.
The morose treatment of the tear-jerking ballad Fascinate Me - penned with sardonic sado-masochist McFadden - is a not-so subtle slide into despair.
That's until the song's conclusion when the singer's male lead confesses his lover never bores him - she is the complete companion.
So it's fitting that the liberation of lost love makes the loser a millionaire in the dynamic delivery of the 1992 Doug Sahm classic Nitty Gritty - the album finale.
We even relive Sahm rhyming Austin with Boston and New York City with nitty gritty without one mention of the equally iconic Nitty Gritty Dirt Band .
Now, if only Australian radio could do justice to one of the most eclectic and enjoyable bands of our troubled times.
Maybe The Mavericks could add a little ecumenical love by being booked to appear live on ABC-TV's quisling Q & A show.
After all they graced Conan O'Brien's cable TV show live with their ska tune Summertime (When I'm With You) when they launched Mono in the U.S.
Malo described Sahm, whom he only met once at the Grammys, as a "sort of musical, spiritual mentor to the band."
"We tried Nitty Gritty at sound check one time. We put it in the set a couple of times just for fun, and we loved it. When it came time to make a record, the label's always asking for an extra song. We said let's record Nitty Gritty . That's a cool track. It's a nod to another musical inspiration for us. A guy who really blended a lot of styles.
"He was sort of a chameleon, but always great. He always made great records, and we love that musical restlessness.”
WHY MONO, YOU MIGHT ASK - RAUL REVEALS
“What we found in the process that in mixing it this way you don't have to add a bunch of stuff.
“You don't have to overdub a bunch of guitars and fiddle and all of these perceived holes because the one guitar part is placed exactly where it should be and fills a nice piece of real estate."
"There's a real honesty to it. They're no lying. There's no deception.
"It's about as truthful a representation of the band and our music as we could possibly present. That's really what it is. It was just a way to get back to the truth and delivering the music and about as an honest and transparent way as possible. That's why we went with it. Plus I think it sounds better."
Malo says that became apparent in the studio when the band would listen to the vinyl, mono versions of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds , original Beatles, Elvis and Sam Cooke.
"If I hadn't said anything, I don't think people would have even noticed, but that's okay," he joked.
ROBERT REYNOLDS DISMISSAL
"At first, it was kind of strange, but you realise people don't realize what a draining energy that is to have," Malo says of playing without Reynolds who was reportedly trying to dupe fans online.
"You're always worried about him."
Malo says the group twice paid for Reynolds to be in rehab and was willing to do so again.
"I'll say this, it was difficult at first playing without Reynolds, but honestly, it became very liberating after a while."
"That's very taxing, very exhausting. It took a minute, and, of course, you go through the process of being sad and being hurt and being angry. You go through that because you're angry at him.
“He's an addict, and he's chosen not to get that."