Latino country rockers, The Mavericks return with the release of their 10th studio album on November 1st. Listeners in the UK will remember The Mavericks for their 1994 hit ‘Dance the Night Away’.
Hailing from Miami, Florida, the band actually started out on the Alternative and Punk scene of the area, playing with the likes of Marilyn Manson.
Having formed back in 1989, they released their eponymously titled first album in 1991, and released five albums before splitting up in 2000. They briefly reformned in 2003 and then took a break between 2004 and 2012 so that singer and guitarist Raul Malo could explore other musical projects. During that period, Malo released six solo albums, and the rest of the band formed the band SWAG, with Ken Coomer of Wilco and Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick.
The Mavericks, like any other long running bands have seen members come and go, Malo and Paul Deakin (drums) remain from the original line up. Jerry Dale McFadden (Keyboards and vocals) and Eddie Perez (lead guitar) make up the current incarnation, both have been longstanding members of the band now. Numerous session musicians and guests make up the line-up on their legendary live shows.
‘Play the Hits’ is essentially a collection of some of the most well-known songs by some of the biggest artists ever to have walked the planet, and marks the start of their thirtieth anniversary tour of the United States.
The album contains eleven tracks that have been given the inimitable Mavericks sound. It kicks off with the first single from the album, ‘Swingin’, the old John Anderson song, which in true Mavericks style has that party feel to it. It’s a rocking groover notably with the brass section coming to the fore right from the get go.
Waylon Jennings’s classic ‘Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way’ is a demonstration on how tight this band are. It’s got a funkier feel to it than the original, but that’s to be expected from these guys. The horns are in full flow on this track adding a different dimension to the song.
Harlan Howard’s classic ‘Blame it on Your heart’, made most famous by Patty Lovelace, keeps the pace going, but has received a huge Tex Mex makeover, complete with the brass section and piano accordion, and it works perfectly.
Next up, country legend, Ray Price’s ‘Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me) slows things down. Gone is the pedal steel used on the original to be replaced by piano and accordion, this doesn’t change the feel of the song much other than to give it that Latino feel, Raul’s vocals are on point, although not as smooth as Ray’s.
Freddy Fender’s ‘Before the Next teardrop Falls’ is next to get the treatment. Raul sings part of the song in Spanish and part in English, as did Freddy in the original. I actually prefer this version to the original, it just sounds more polished and Raul’s voice triumphs over Freddy’s nearly any day in my book.
The song with the biggest makeover in my opinion is Springsteen’s classic ‘Hungry Heart’. It’s got a real 50’s feel to it. There’s a quite magnificent Sax solo during it and for some unknown reason I found myself singing along to it in the style of Elvis. Please remove that thought from your minds, as I absolutely butchered it.
Raul’s on the top of his game for Hank Cochran’s ‘Why Can’t She Be You’. When I first saw this song was on the album, I did wonder if they could do it justice, but they easily succeed, they done a magnificent job on this track, it’s one of the best on the album in my opinion.
Correct me if I’m wrong, and I may well be, but ‘Once Upon a Time’ was originally recorded by Mary Wells. For this rendition the guys are joined by the incredibly gifted, Martina McBride.
The Otis Blackwell song ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and made famous by the king himself, Elvis Aaron Presley is next. Now although they make a real good fist of it, I have a thing about people covering Elvis, basically I don’t think anyone should unless they are going to totally revamp the song, as there aren’t many that can actually do justice to any of his songs. Notably, McBride herself recorded a fantastic version of ‘Suspicious Minds’, which stands out as one example of an Elvis song done perfectly.
Now if you are going to an album of old Country or Rockabilly songs then I would say there has to be a Willie Nelson song. The Mavericks have not let me down here either. ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’. Now I have no problem with anyone covering a Willie song because Willie’s style is so unique that anything else will sound like a different song anyway, plus the quality of Willie’s songs are of such high standard that your breathe can be taken away just by the song itself no matter who does it.
The much-covered Don Harris song, ‘I’m leaving it up to you’, written by Don Harris and perhaps best known for Linda Ronstadt’s version, rounds off the album nicely. The harmonies that they produce in this version are quite outstanding, which is something that has been synonymous with The Mavericks over the years.
All in all, this record will please fans of the band, it will also please the older listeners amongst us, who will remember most if not all of these songs. Will it attract new fans? Who knows, anyone who goes to see one of their live shows will come away a fan so I guess in a way it will, they are embarking on a world tour starting in Canada on Sunday 27th October, go check them out if you can, you won’t be disappointed.