Pinning down the Mavericks is like picking up mercury with your bare hands. Time-jumping, genre bending shaman, the band has no qualms about leaping cultures from song to song, somehow managing to keep their own identity intact while inhabiting the skins of others.
Their latest, Brand New Day, is nothing new in that regard. It's all over the place, a travel agent's nightmare, but a hell of a lot of fun to ride along with.
It's a studio album recorded in Nashville. But there's no similarity to anything any other band in that city does in a studio. There's no Nashville sound here-the record could have been recorded anywhere. Even though it was mixed in stereo, it has the in-your-face feel of a mono recording like their last release, Mono. For those not old enough to have experience with that sound, go back to the early Stones records or Little Richard's Specialty cuts to appreciate what a live, vibrant sound that mode of recording captures and how it locks in every nuance. To make it even fresher, frontman Raul Malo has said that he brings his rough ideas to the studio and the band works out the songs on the spot, recording live in one room with few if any overdubs for a truly organic sound.
The Mavericks' sound is world music. Not in the conventional sense, but in a way that encompasses bits of musical culture from all over woven into a seamless tapestry the band uses as their own freak flag.
"Rolling Along” is border/genre-hopping Tex-Mex/Appalachia/Western Swing that mixes Doug Sahm with Earl Scruggs and Bob Wills. It looks like a mess when you try to describe it, but the music speaks for itself, and you don't need a translator to understand it.
There is a country sound here, but the country is Cuba.“Easy As it Seems” is rooted in Cuban rhythms, but as usual, the band can't play it straight, throwing in a backing chorus that sounds like '60s era Nashville pop country over the Latin beat.
Malo said recently that he had always wanted to write ‘It’s Now or Never,” a song Elvis recorded in 1960 that Malo says encompassed rock and roll, opera, R&B, and pop. He comes pretty close on “I Wish You Well,” gorgeous swamp pop with a Tex-Mex flavor courtesy of some Augie Myers style accordion courtesy of Michael Guerra with Malo soaring like Roy Orbison on the vocals.
"For the Ages” manages to mix gospel, Bakersfield honky-tonk and Tex-Mex backed by a celestial choir composed of Etta Britt and the McCrary Sisters. For furhter musical confusement, Malo inserts a few Bob Wills trademark “AHHS” between accordion solos.
If it's your first time, this one will make you a believer. For those who've been there since the beginning, this is the one you've been waiting for.