Nashville had never quite heard the likes of The Mavericks, a Miami five-piece with a retro countrypolitan lean and a Cuban-American lead singer with a voice that was all silk, muscle and smoke. If Music City didn’t know what to make of them, The Mavericks figured they would make a timeless kind of classic country that would transcend the moment and be something that would sound fresh no matter when it was played.
Twenty years after the release of their first MCA Records release, In Time arrives to show how much and how little has changed. Sounding even more polemic compared to the thumping arena country and slick pop anthems, The Mavericks have fashioned an album that considers Latin rhythms, horn embellishments and bits of Bakersfield in their staunchly vintage approach to modern saloon country. It’s not quite Ray Price, yet In Time has far more in common with the legendary vocalist than making someone’s speakers go “boom boom.”
With the first trippy guitar chord, the whirling farfisa and the chugging beat, Malo’s voice unfurls with all its muscular brio. “Back In Your Arms Again,” the romantic’s plea of defeat, is a brilliant bit of Latin dance music punctuated by swooping horns and a bridge that proclaims, “I should know better, but what difference does it make to a lovesick fool?”
Their ability to make jagged affairs of the heart effervescent and enthralling has always given The Mavericks their rico suave appeal. Two decades in, they understand the plush possibilities of betrayal, lust and yes, orgasm.
The almost nine-minute noir tango “(Call Me) When You Get To Heaven” is a slow-building slink that ratchets up anticipation and desire until the McCrary Sisters’ response vocals, meeting Malo’s ardent siren’s cry two-thirds of the way in, are their own tumultuous release. It’s a carnal tour de force; perhaps no musical performance has packed this sort of erotic wallop since Donna Summer professed she “Loved To Love You Baby.”
Musky and robust, In Time is a man’s celebration of sex’s deeper connections. Even the comparatively fluffy ‘50s stride “That’s Not My Name,” the mariachi “All Over Again” or the jump-jiving “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight” throb with the always complex pulse of desire.
With Eddie Perez comprehensive guitar tones—ranging from barbed wire to spaghetti western, tremolo to classic—and Jerry Dale McFadden’s warehouse of keyboard sounds, The Mavericks understand the potency of a band that plays as a solid unit and embellishes that sound accordingly—not quite brazen, but flaring with machismo. Ahhh, The Mavericks: still defying classification and utterly festive.