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GAC Album Review: The Mavericks’ In Time

The Mavericks

The Mavericks’ 2013 album, In Time. Photo courtesy of Big Machine Label Group.

Nearly 10 years after their last studio album, The Mavericks are getting the band back together– and they’re bringing the polyphonic rhythms and mariachi horns with them. It makes sense that a group known for their tremendous live shows would reunite for a new record after first reuniting onstage. Their first official performance in seven years was a high profile slot at last year’s Stagecoach Festival. Now, with a sound that’s alive and raw, the Miami-born group is releasing their new project, In Time, on February 26.

In Time has indeed taken some time, but the band members – Raul Malo (vocals), Paul Deakin (percussion), Robert Reynolds (bass), Jerry Dale McFadden (keyboards) and Eddie Perez (guitar) – fall into the groove with an ease that recalls some of their very best work. In Time, which Raul co-produced with Niko Bolas (Neil Young, Melissa Etheridge), features 13 new songs that hit on a broad musical spectrum including rockabilly (“As Long As There’s Tonight”), nostalgic ’60s pop (“That’s Not My Name”) and Afro-Caribbean shake (“Dance In The Moonlight”). However, it’s Raul’s richly expressive voice echoing more than just a trace of Roy Orbison’s potent loneliness that tugs at those country heartstrings.

While the band buzzes along with an immediacy and electric urgency, Raul’s controlled presence steadies the overall performance. Over an aggressive and odd time signature on “Lies,” that runs hard like an audio assault, Raul drops words and melodies with an eerie calm before a low-end guitar solo rattles the track. On “Fall Apart,” a quick number with a Latin flourish, he displays an uncanny ability to move within established melodies to stretch meaning into feeling. All the while, however, loneliness seeps through at every turn. Raul may be at his finest on the slow, sad waltz, “Forgive Me,” where he draws regret out with a delicate precision, singing, I should’ve listened, but I turned away instead, over reverb washed instrumental phrases.

As heard in the forlorn barroom ballad, “In Another’s Arms,” loneliness may be a key element, but oftentimes The Mavericks’ sound is about life and energy. The album opener “Back In Your Arms Again” uses shakers and mariachi horns with an infectious back beat to draw listeners out on the dance floor. “All Over Again” follows a similar uptempo, dance-ready formula while Raul sings, It seems you never get tired of breaking my heart, before a twang-heavy guitar solo dives in. The album’s first single, “Born To Be Blue,” released last year, features retro pop percussion and a loose, open sound while the lyrics detail helpless desire. The contrasts are oftentimes effective, like on the protective, “Amsterdam Moon,” which hides scars and jealousy underneath a moonlight serenade that comes fully equipped with accordion to boot.

In Time leaves plenty of room for ample drama. The standout spaghetti western track, “Come Unto Me” (included on the album in both English and Spanish versions), thunders with a bottom end that just might drop through the floor as Telecaster distortion rings and Raul’s raw delivery strikes compellingly personal tones. On the hypnotic, album closing, “(Call Me) When You Get To Heaven,” a tormented epic featuring backup vocals courtesy of The McCrary Sisters, Raul’s haunted voice becomes possessed over an ever-increasing musical frenzy. The result is an experience that will flat out send shivers down your spine. It’s a powerful close to an album bursting with passion; an album that celebrates life with each note and establishes The Mavericks once again for their one-of-a-kind sound.

Key Tracks – “Come Unto Me,” “(Call Me) When You Get To Heaven,” “Back In Your Arms Again,” “Forgive Me”

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