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Mavericks have done it their way

The Mavericks are not easily corralled by modern country music's marketing machinery.

And not fitting neatly into the industry's mold has made their ride into the spotlight a little slower than they had hoped. But the country quartet from South Florida, one of Saturday's headliners in the Snake, Rattle & Roll Jam at Florida State Fairgrounds, finally seems to have arrived.

"We've learned to be patient," bassist Robert Reynolds said in a phone interview Tuesday. "But we've also learned that the music is too important to us to take a chance on doing something that would not be good for it."

With the release this year of their third album and first gold record, What A Crying Shame, the Mavericks have been touring the nation and introducing to new audiences their rarified blend of hard-edged traditional country and controlled contemporary stylings.

At the heart of the Mavericks is lead singer Raul Malo, whose intense, wailing tenor is hauntingly resonant, with references to Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Hank Williams Sr. In addition, Malo has become a respected songwriter whose tough, lean lyrics brim with honesty and real-life emotions.

Malo and Reynolds formed the Mavericks in 1990 out of the desperation to play classic '50s- and '60s-style honky-tonk and rock 'n' roll. Soon, with drummer Paul Deakin, the band amassed a local following.

In 1992, they signed with MCA and released From Hell To Paradise, a collection of largely older songs by the band. With its broad, retro-country sound and potent lyrics, Mavericks gained considerable critical acclaim, but unfortunately, not much air play.

"That was a tough period," said Reynolds, who is married to country star Trisha Yearwood. "What we were told was the album just fell outside boundaries of what radio was looking for."

However, What A Crying Shame, with its bountiful supply of heartfelt songs, is wonderfully radio-friendly, yielding several hits.

"The songwriting is more direct on the new album," Reynolds said. "I think it magnifies the sound we've been trying to achieve for a long time."

Though they moved to Nashville two years ago, the Mavericks have made it clear wherever they go that they are a product of Florida, Reynolds said.

"That's important to us because we're proud to be from Florida, and also because it furthers the idea that we are different from anything they've heard before."

The Mavericks' hourlong set Saturday begins at 3:55 p.m. Advance tickets are $17 for adults, $8 for children 3-12.