Album Review: The Mavericks, <em>In Time</em>

the-mavericks-in-time

The Mavericks
In Time

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A reminder of the magic that can happen when a strong lyric meets a fresh, engaging production and a vocal performance that cuts right to the bone.

Founded in 1989, The Mavericks enjoyed a successful run on MCA Records in the mid-nineties.  Though radio was generally lukewarm toward their efforts, that didn’t stop The Mavericks from quietly building a formidable fan following, selling gold and platinum at retail, and famously winning the 1996 CMA Vocal Group trophy without ever reaching the Top 10 at radio.  In Time marks the now-reformed band’s first new album in the ten years since their 2003 disbandment, as well as their first release since signing with Scott Borchetta’s Valory label.

Though The Mavericks have long been filed under the “Country” label, In Time, like much of the group's past work, is a melting pot of genre stylings, incorporating, country, classic 1950s pop, and a heavy flavoring of Latin and Tex-mex influence.  The inimitable vocals of Raul Malo

continue to be the group’s most definitive feature, but The Mavericks still maintain their function as a group, with each member’s individual talents given ample spotlight, and with the arrangements incorporating everything from mariachi trumpets to surf guitar to pedal steel, there's hardly a dull moment to be found.  Malo supplies a solid set of self-written material, taking writing credits on every track and collaborating with the likes of Gary Nicholson, Bob DiPiero, James House, and Al Anderson (who co-wrote The Mavericks highest-charting single, 1995's “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”).

There's a sense of restless excitement evident on even the most melancholy of material, and the best tracks practically boil over with energy and urgency.  “Come Unto Me” demands to be heard with a swelling melody, forceful performance on Malo’s part, and an aggressive stop-and-start rhythm, no doubt making it nearly impossible for the narrator’s love interest to resist the titular come-hither call.  The jaunty organ-driven arrangement of opening track and second single “Back In Your Arms Again” almost makes the listener wonder if the narrator is bemoaning his on-again-off-again lover's hold over him, or celebrating it.

Conversely, the band is able to utilize a less-is-more approach with equal efficacy, best  exemplified in the sorrowful ballad “In Another’s Arm,” in which Malo’s evocative delivery fills out every nook of the bare-boned arrangement.  Malo almost sounds like a male Patsy Cline on the regret-filled countrypolitan-tinged “Forgive Me,” while “That's Not My Name” lightly plugs along in a manner that seems to mirror the defeat of its downtrodden narrator.  The penultimate track, “(Call Me) When You Get to Heaven” is over eight minutes long, but the smooth tango groove is so absorbing that one hardly notices, after which the set closes with a rousing Spanish version of “Come Unto Me” (“Ven Hacia Mi”).

“Lies” is slightly less satisfying, as the melody doesn't quite match the punch of the songwriting and performance, but it ultimately pales only in comparison to its glorious counterparts.

It’s anybody’s guess how long The Mavericks will stay together this time, but the longer the better.  In Time is a richly rewarding set that deserves to be mentioned in any discussion of the year's best albums – another fine Mavericks album which we have every reason to believe will age just as gracefully as its predecessors.

Top Tracks:  “Back In Your Arms Again,” “Come Unto Me,” “In Another's Arms”

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8 Comments

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8 Responses to Album Review: The Mavericks, <em>In Time</em>

  1. Sam G.No Gravatar

    Nice review, Ben. This is definitely one of the best albums of the year, and it’s pretty impressive that The Mavericks can take such a long hiatus and come back sounding as good as ever. Quality-wise, “In Time” is right up there with “Trampoline” and “What a Crying Shame.”

  2. NadieNo Gravatar

    The Mavericks haven’t skipped a beat! I love this album! See them live and you wont regret it!

  3. Yes, I wondered if they’d still be able to capture the freshness of their work after such a long, storied break, but it’s obvious that it’s something that’s natural for them. It’s a great album.

  4. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    This year is getting so expensive! Can’t remember the last time there were so many good country/Americana albums in such a short time.

  5. bobNo Gravatar

    I listened to the i-Tunes preview twice shortly after the cd was released and twice again today. Every review I read prior to Ben’s gave the album very high marks and Ben’s review is extremely well written as usual. I think my problem is that I just can’t find 1 song on this cd that I would call great, that I would listen to and immediately want to play again. So far my favorite song here is “Forgive Me”. Maybe some others will grow on me in time. I still like the “Cryin Shame” and “Trampoline” albums.

    Malo’s a great singer. While I never got to see the Mavericks in concert, I did see Malo 5 or 6 years ago at the Belcourt Theatre. He was in fine form vocally even though I didn’t care much for the cd he was promoting at the time, “After Hours”. I thought “You’re Only Lonely” was much better.

  6. Kevin,
    You’re right. This has been a great year for music.

    Bob,
    It took me awhile to embrace Raul Malo’s solo work, but the light suddenly just flipped on for me one day, it seems.

  7. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    If I were to describe past Maverick albums in two words, those two words would be “hidden gems”. Every Mavericks album was just chock full of such songs – songs that never received any airplay at all but made their albums worth the effort to sit down and just listen to the album straight through.

    This album is no exception

    Raul Malo is an exceptional vocalist, and as much as I like the Mavericks, I wasn’t at all displeased by his career as a solo artist. Had Malo arrived during the pre-rock era, he might have been a huge star. Certainly audiences of that era would have been more appreciative of his efforts than the current era in which melody and harmony are often afterthoughts

  8. Patti BakerNo Gravatar

    I agree with Everything you said, except I think it deserves 5 FIVE Stars! “Lies” is an awesome song, and shows their amazing versatility! Best record of the year, regardless of the genre!!! Live they are even better!! I love this record! Couldn’t happen to a nicer group of guys!! <3