Friday, March 22, 2013

Interview with The Mavericks

A version of my interview originally appeared at: 

I caught a recent show in San Juan Capistrano and it was one of the best I've seen so far this year. Be sure to check out this can't miss tour! See below for SoCal concert details and the official web site for full routing...

With all the modern technology at musicians’ disposal today, authenticity often falls to the wayside during the recording process. 

That wasn’t a problem for Grammy-winning Americana band The Mavericks, which has reunited and released excellent album, “In Time” (Valory Music Co.) after an eight-year absence.

“Not to set us apart from other talented people, but we don’t have to manufacture our sound. It comes out of us,” says guitarist Robert Reynolds, from a tour stop in Santa Fe, NM.

“When we hit the live stage, people are blown away and say, ‘they sound incredible!’ It’s almost like they didn’t expect you could. When you haven’t faked your sound, it’s really not voodoo or black magic; it’s just performing.”

Last April, those who attended Stagecoach in Indio saw firsthand how The Mavericks haven’t missed a step. Augmented by four other musicians, the nine-piece concert ensemble performed a vibrant evening set in the Palomino tent and ended up being one of the country music festival standouts.

According to Reynolds, using an expanded lineup was necessary to do the new songs justice.

“Anything short of that becomes less than the desired effect. Are we adaptable? Yes. Are the songs still fun in a [smaller] arrangement? Yeah. But to give folks this album in a manner that feels like the night of music we want to share? Absolutely.”

Now Orange County fans finally get to experience The Mavericks’ eclectic mélange of countrypolitan, Tejano, rock ‘n’ roll and much more at a sold out Coach House on Saturday.

“There are places in the country where we seem to have a real symbiotic relationship; something very mutual between us and the fans. They make it easy to enjoy what we’re doing.

“You might think a travelling musician would say that about any audience, but it’s not always the case,” continues Reynolds. “To be honest, Southern California … [has] become very special. We have gaping holes [around America] where we still fight hard to earn our little place. California has always been a rewarding area for us.”

The early reception for “In Time” – preceded by 2012 taster EP “Suited up and Ready” - has been equally fruitful. The acclaimed collection (with a score of 86 on review aggregator site, Metacritic) reached No. 8 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart – The Mavericks’ best placing in 15 years.

“I’m a founding member of this group and I’ve seen the peaks and valleys,” notes Reynolds, 50. “We might be at an apex; the real summit here. I’ve had big years with this thing and I know what they look like.”

The Mavericks were formed in Miami by Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin in the late Eighties. The pair recruited Cuban-American singer/guitarist Raul Malo and another guitarist before releasing an independent CD in 1990. Major label bow “From Hell to Paradise” followed in ’92.

Two years later, they found a wider audience via platinum-certified disc “What a Crying Shame” and four top 30 country hits (plus a fine cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “All That Heaven Will Allow”).

Gold seller “Music for All Occasions” spawned a Grammy and an even biggest track: the top 15 duet with Flaco Jimenez, “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down.” By decade’s end, The Mavericks had also amassed a handful of major country music awards.

Before the group eventually called it quits in ‘04, Reynolds started Swag with Mavericks keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, Ken Coomer of Wilco and Doug Powell. They put out the power pop-leaning CD “Catchall” in 2001 (additionally, Reynolds co-wrote tracks with Petersson on Cheap Trick’s 1997 and ’01 efforts). Meanwhile, Malo released six well-regarded solo albums throughout the 2000s.

“In Time” was co-produced by Malo and Niko Bolas (known for work with another iconoclast artist, Neil Young). The guys entered the studio without doing demos. What resulted was a more spontaneous process, “tons of shaping and arranging that could happen in the moment. Even in some cases, letting Raul finish lyrics on the spot or overnight...The main thing was we didn’t go in with pre-conceived notions about anything. That was highly rewarding.”

Some songs were even recorded live, Malo’s ad libs left intact.

“To us, that is where the highest energy comes from,” Reynolds says. “If someone wanted to know how The Mavericks achieve a certain truthful energy on the record, it’s that we’re performing not too differently than we would at night onstage.”

Among several new album highlights are “Come Unto Me” (a Latin shuffle with wicked electric guitar work by fifth member Eddie Perez), some retro party rock in “As Long as There’s Loving Tonight,” lovely sparse ballad “Amsterdam Moon” (a showcase for Malo’s glorious Roy Orbison-esque pipes) and the ebb ‘n’ flow dynamic of closing epic “Call Me When You Get to Heaven” (featuring gospel music’s The McCrary Sisters on backing vocals).

The band took a jam band approach on the latter bolero and did it as a vamp to find a groove. “We wanted to be naturally transcended by the emotion of the song.”

Although Reynolds was involved in other music projects before the band resumed, he realized during the long break that “playing Mavericks songs with the Mavericks is almost undefinable by any other measure.” Not doing them again for an audience “while we’re still able-bodied, but not willing” would be crazy.

“What I think being back together represents is having the knowledge that it only takes a willingness on our part to work well together. If we do that, all the music falls into place.” 

The Mavericks perform Saturday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, sold out; March 25 at the Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, sold out; March 26 at the El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, $30; March 27 at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, $25-$35. All shows 8 p.m., with Seth Walker opening.

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