Make us your home page
Instagram

Mavericks' new album is unpredictably awesome

Publicity photo

Publicity photo

First, a confession: I was originally going to use this space to review Atoms for Peace, a side project by Radiohead tripster Thom Yorke and shirtless spaz Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their LP is weird, technotic, a music critic's moody paradise.

But as I was listening to that, I was going through my work mail. And when I opened In Time, the first new album from the Mavericks in eight-plus years — man, I love these guys, all parts rock and twang and surf and mariachi and even polka! — I started having serious second thoughts.

Then I heard that near-operatic vocal of Mavs singer Raul Malo, a burly Cubano with wicked seduction skills — and one of the best singers around, no hyperbole, folks — and I changed my mind for good.

Let's have fun instead, okay?

Back in their Grammy-winning mid-'90s heyday, the Mavericks were marketed as a country act thanks to retrofitted smashes What a Crying Shame and O What a Thrill. But trying to corral Malo into one genre is a waste of time and talent. So followup hits included Tijuana horns (Dance the Night Away) and Tejano twirls (All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down). The band's peak turned out to be a straight-ahead take on weepy Hollies classic The Air That I Breathe.

Malo's restlessness and eclecticism probably cost the band bigger success and a smoother history. But from the sound of the new stuff, the four other guys in the band have come to terms with his wanderlust, as Malo had a hand in writing all 14 tracks, making In Time predictably unpredictable — and one of the very best albums of 2013.

With a husky crooner's flair, Malo could sing your taxes and make you happy that you owed. He belts songs like Babe Ruth swatted hardballs — with confidence, panache and a big-man's grace. Nothing phases him: the swingin' polka Fall Apart, the jitterbug bounce As Long As There's Loving Tonight, the matadorial werewolf prowl Come Unto Me.

Opening cut Back in Your Arms Again is riding music for a Mexican zamboni, with Jerry Dale McFadden's ice-rink organ accented by Eddie Perez's wah-wah guitars. But in a classic Mavericks move (some lover is always leaving or threatening to leave or afraid to leave), Malo delivers his vocal as if he's down, and defeated, on his knees. He pulls the same sly move on Born to Be Blue: torch it up while the rest of the band tries to cheer him up.

Yes, there is an assortment of straight-up low-down ballads: the laconic, harmonica-accented In Another's Arms, the winking cha-cha Amsterdam Moon.

But the album's bravest departure is the eight-minute (Call Me) When You Get to Heaven, which takes the art of longing to epic levels. At one darkly comic point, the gospel-raised McCrary Sisters show up to answer the protagonist's plea, or maybe welcome him through the Pearly Gates. Malo's vocal is contained — until it isn't, and the finale becomes a sultry holler of lost souls. On the finest albums of their career, the Mavericks make kicking the bucket sound like a sweet ride. Let's see Atoms for Peace do that.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@tampabay.com. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

.review

The Mavericks, In Time

(Big Machine)

GRADE: A

Mavericks' new album is unpredictably awesome 02/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 5:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After last year's drug-related deaths, Tampa's Sunset Music Festival says it's stepping up safety, security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Alex Haynes worked three jobs. He had a fiance and an infant son. He owned his own home in Melbourne. Last summer, the 22-year-old attended the Sunset Musical Festival at Raymond James Stadium.

    He left in an ambulance.

    Last year’s Sunset Music Festival was marked by dozens of medical emergencies.
  2. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Pain does not exist in the Karate 3 soundtrack ... does it?!?

    Blogs

    Should the Karate Kid series have stopped at the original? Probably, but if we didn't have Karate Kid 3 would will still have the lost song Listen To Her Heart by the Little River Band?

  4. Bar review: The Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg

    Bars & Spirits

    I've spent many evenings in St. Pete's Jannus Live courtyard, enjoying one of the best open-air venues in the Tampa Bay area. It's where I saw my first concert in Florida: Toadies, on the Rubberneck tour sometime in the mid '90s.

    The drinks at the Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg are about as cheap as you’ll find at any other regular downtown bar, a nice surprise.
  5. Local craft beer of the week: Two Henrys Belleview-Biltmore Blueberry Vanilla Wheat

    Bars & Spirits

    Two Henrys Brewing Company is a unique entity in the Tampa Bay brewing scene, due to both its status as the only brewery in Plant City, as well as its location on a 27-acre working farm, which also includes a winery.

    Photo by Justin Grant