When The Mavericks returned to the scene after an eight-year hiatus, things looked a lot different. They left in 2004, when the iTunes singles market really just started to take shape. Streaming didn't exist. And neither did Big Machine, the label they signed with.
While frontman Raul Malo extended his solo career over that time, what made The Mavericks special in the 1990s felt like a distant memory. Their unique mix of country and punk rockabilly fused with Latin vibes suddenly wasn't the most interesting thing on the airwaves.
But something felt missing without songs like The Mavericks' "Here Comes The Rain" and "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down" sprinkling the charts. Because nobody really captured what they did when they left. They didn't spawn imitators good enough to keep their sub-genre going, or fool the critics into the praise The Mavericks rightly earned.
So when they announced a return, it made sense that labels clamored to capture what they offered. But sometimes it's just not the right fit, and after two records, Malo and company left Big Machine. Now, they've reemerged with their first independent record ever, Brand New Day, and a newfound freedom to express what they want, how they want.
An Unmistakable Voice
Raul Malo's unmistakable voice never changed throughout the years. His almost Roy Orbison-like delivery oozes Cuban bravado and confidence. On Brand New Day, Malo lets the tracks get a little dirty. His heavy delivery saturates the tracks. Even in the simple, easy-listening delivery of songs like "Rolling Along" -- a curious choice for album opener, but one that takes you all the way back to Texas Tornado-era Tex-Mex vibes.
But Malo really shines when he lets loose, like on the anthemic title track "Brand New Day" and first single "Damned (If You Do)." The former feels like the kind of song worthy of waking up even the most cynical of bed dwellers. And then the latter sinks you right back into that pessimist place of paradox that no decision comes without consequence.
It's not that Malo's softer delivery in songs like "Goodnight Waltz" doesn't satisfy. It's just that Malo's timbre suits his stronger, gustier delivery. Even in sweeter songs such as "I Will Be Yours."
Mono Mundo Sound
Comprised of Malo, Eddie Perez, Jerry Dale McFadden and Paul Deakin, The Mavericks formed their record label Mono Mundo in 2016. For an act that won a Grammy and widespread critical acclaim throughout the label system, stepping off on their own is a big deal.
"This is the first studio record on our own label, and it is an important component in the band's history," Malo said. "But the real goal was just to make a great record."
In many ways, you'd be hard pressed to pick Brand New Day out of a lineup from 90s-era Mavericks. And that's a compliment. It's not that their two albums with Big Machine didn't capture their sound, it's just that it polished it a bit too much.
On the new record, the foursome embraces a warmer, rounder tone. Much of the previous sheen gives way to a robust reverb enveloping Malo's voice. Horn sections blend gently, only punching when the moment really calls for it, instead of the modern iteration of horns that cut through a mix, no matter how thick. (For reference, check songs like Lady Antebellum's new tune "You Look Good" for a super pop production of a horn section; Brand New Day feels much less abrasive).
Same Ingredients, Different Execution
And it's not like The Mavericks dove into a different creative pool. They once again co-produced the album with Niko Bolas, who handled production duties on their previous two records. But the intention and the focus behind the record seems a bit more centered around embracing the classic Mavericks sound, instead of chasing modern production. Ultimately, it serves the project well.
Intention, and time. "My thinking is always that you can make the best record you can make if you really labor over the parts, the editing, the songs, take your time," Malo says. "I wanted to specifically get to the point where you're trimming the fat off the songs and making as succinct and as concise a good little pop record as you can make. That was really the goal."
The process pays off, and should handsomely reward fans and critics alike. The Mavericks are preparing to launch a big tour in support of the album. They'll start in Malo's new home of Nashville before traversing much of the United States into October.