The Upshot: No raucous barnburners, but plenty of beautiful summer chill out tunes. BY JOHN B. MOORE The Mavericks have been serving up their country/Tejano/swing/funk gumbo for more than 26 years now and its just as fresh on this their ninth studio album, as it's ever been. The fact that they have no contemporaries making similar music at the moment may be one of the reasons they feel free to make their own path again and again.
On their ninth studio album, 2017's Brand New Day, the Mavericks kick things off with "Rolling Along," a sprightly tejano-flavored number that seems to be a testament to optimism, but on closer inspection turns out to be a ringing endorsement of smoking reefer. The track's combination of superb craft, retro style, and a playful insistence on not taking things too seriously puts it in league with a significant percentage of the Mavericks' body of work, and that's certainly their modus operandi on Brand New Day. There are more vintage pop and Latin influences at work on this LP than the group's biggest hits of the '90s, but anyone who has been following their post-Trampoline career will have no trouble recognizing this as the Mavericks, and Raul Malo's voice is still smooth as silk and big as all outdoors.
One would expect that a title like Brand New Day would, in fact, herald a musical rebirth of some kind. So when The Mavericks release a new album that essentially replays their signature sound, the band doesn't exactly lend itself to truth in advertising. Granted, it does beckon the arrival of their new record label, Mondo Mundo, and it does arrive quickly on the heels of a spectacular live album that summed up their career to date.
The Mavericks have a big sound. On their latest release, the (somewhat) newly re-formed band offer the aural equivalent of one of those widescreen Cinemascope Technicolor westerns of the late ‘50s/early ‘60s. The music evokes the broad empty landscapes, sleepy cantinas, and heavy-eyed senoritas of the mythical past where the differences between bad hombres and honest men were not always clear.
The title track of the Mavericks' first studio set on their own Mono/Mundo label refers to a lover pledging devotion to an old flame with the lyrics "I don't want to live like a ghost from the past." For those following this act from over a quarter century ago, those words can just as well refer to the unique brand of music the basic foursome (now expanded with "The Fantastic Four" backing) has shifted to over the decades. Traces of any traditional country that once informed the Mavericks' always diverse style, have gradually been erased, especially after its 2012 reunion. They have been replaced with an intoxicating fusion of ska, polka, waltz time, Cuban, Tex-Mex, tangos, cha-cha, Latin and even sweeping, retro inflected pop.