REVIEW: The Mavericks – ‘Brand New Day’

LifeInASong_UK

It’s been 19 years since The Mavericks became a fixture in the UK charts with ‘Dance The Night Away’, a song that became an anthem and a floor filler for every mobile DJ on the wedding circuit.

A huge amount of water has gone under the proverbial bridge for the band since those halcyon days. An extended hiatus when lead singer Raul Malo began his solo career. A parting of ways for founder member and bass player Robert Reynolds who was essentially dismissed for drug addiction. And also change of record labels. They have left Valory Music, a branch of Big Machine Records, and have released their first album on their own label, Mono Mundo.

Don’t be fooled by the title. ‘Brand New Day’ doesn’t represent a change in the style and eccentricity that is synonymous with the band. The same eclectic mixture of shapes and styles that have defined the band remains. They are impossible to pigeon hole. The only consistency is Raul Malo’s stunning tenor vocals which, as ever, dominate. Everything else is just as you would expect. Their particular brand of musical cocktail contains blends of Tex –Mex, Latin, Cuban, Bossa Nova and traditional ballads. Throw in some banjo and accordion and occasionally you might hear some country.

‘Rolling Along’, the opener on this 10-track musical kaleidoscope, is a swirling, accordion-driven, foot-stomping, bluegrass-influenced powerhouse with an eternally optimistic message that whatever happens, “we will just keep rolling along”.

Malo has always received Orbison comparisons and the title track ‘Brand New Day’ has the same aching melancholy and the ‘operatic’ highs that were associated with the man in black. Add a dash of magic from the 60’s Motown production blueprint and The Mavericks have created another hybrid to add to their back catalogue.

‘Easy As It Seems’ emphasises Malo’s Cuban roots with a Mambo beat that should be first choice for the Latin American section of next season’s Strictly, and the horns are out in force on ‘I Think Of You’ with its timeless message that sounds like it could have been recorded anytime in the last 50 years.

‘Goodnight Waltz’ at the mid-point of the album is the chance for us all to rest the aching feet and savour the remorseful Malo vocals. It’s minimalistic with a haunting accordion that just about stays the right side of excessive melancholy.

The Latin influences reappear with ‘I Will Be Yours’. The Mavericks’ time honoured template of producing MOR timeless songs that resonate with their huge number of loyal devotees is perfectly illustrated within the confines of this track. From the horns to the signature cha cha cha ending, they are all here.

‘Ride With Me’ doesn’t stray too far from the tried and tested either. A sure-fire live highlight and a dance floor filler that has a touch of the Blues about it with the organ and accordion offering a backdrop to the swirling trumpets and trombones.

The song that Malo deems to be the centre point of the album is ‘I Wish You Well’, a song that he wrote as a tribute to his father who actually passed away whilst it was being recorded. Malo said “we sang him into his next place, it was a real heavy beautiful moment’. “I wish you well, I know that you are going somewhere”.

‘For The Ages’ is the type of Tex-Mex song that a quartet in sombreros would perform at your table during dinner and closes this somewhat brief collection.

It’s not a country album and I doubt whether anything here will be of much interest to country radio, but the Mavericks have adequately added to the collection of songs that has provided them with an impressive fan base over almost 3 decades. It will keep the dance floors full and the concert crowds happy. If you asked 10 people to define their music you might just get 10 different answers, but that has always been their appeal. It might not actually be a ‘Brand New Day’ for The Mavericks but let’s consider that a bonus.

Graham Wharton

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