For all of their commercial successes and industry recognition, The Mavericks were never a band that bowed to popular trends in country music. On Mono, the second album of their full-fledged revival, they play even faster and looser with genre conventions than ever before. The result is an album that, if not necessarily their best—What a Crying Shame and 2013’s In Time set particularly high standards— may be the most purely fun album of The Mavericks’ career.
A glorious genre pastiche, Mono swings and jives from the rockabilly of “Stories We Could Tell” and Latin inflections of “All Night Long” to the lite funk of “What Am I Supposed to Do” and zydeco of “What You Do to Me.” Aside from the band’s unrelenting verve and their obvious technical know-how with each of the styles they’ve appropriated, what keeps the set from descending into chaos are its robustly-written songs, which adhere to the country music convention of masking heartbreak beneath a frivolous veneer, and frontman Raul Malo’s inimitable voice.
The album’s retro style is amplified by the band’s decision to record in mono-channel audio, which creates a richly layered wall-of-sound. This particular recording style can sometimes reduce to a gimmick— see John Mellencamp’s No Better Than This, to which the mono recording added little— but it works well for The Mavericks here, as Mono offers no shortage of substance but is truly a triumph of style.
Recommended Tracks: “All Night Long,” “The Only Question Is,” “What You Do To Me,” “Fascinate Me”