The Mavericks can’t be put into one category of music. If they were, you would be doing a huge disservice not only to yourself but to the band’s 15 years of punching out adventurous, genre-bending styles. Led by Raul Malo and his cohorts, the Mavericks sound at times like a Mariachi band possessed by Roy Orbison while in others a group that Chris Isaak looks to for inspiration. Getting a collection of any band is harder the longer they’re around and the longer they remain relevant. So, while the Mavericks did release an earlier greatest hits package, there were some fan faves not included. (To refresh your memory of that album, just check the picture on the back of the album’s liner notes, it’s the same picture!) That’s what this album picks up on. The 20 tracks include two previously unreleased songs as well as the signatures. Thus you will have just as much fun listening to this album as you would anything else this year. Trust me on this one.
The album starts with the old traditional country style that mixes a bit of crooning on the lovely “This Broken Heart”. Sounding as if he’s taken a page from Orbison and also kd lang, Malo hits all the right notes as his band mates just add the finishing touches on this lonesome heartache ditty. But it’s not just one style that makes the Mavericks so appealing, as the fiddle-hoedown meets Steve Earle circuit Exit O style on the gorgeous “From Hell to Paradise” is nailed from its onslaught. Ambling along at a pace that you can help but smile or grin to, it’s a roots pop effort that makes you realize that, when it works, it can rarely be beat. Malo finishes by singing in Spanish à la Los Lobos. A cover of Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin'” is more of a country honky tonky rave up that is more barroom than Ryman Auditorium. Thankfully, it doesn’t get that far into the new Nashville sonic sludge.
The Mavericks first real hit was “What a Crying Shame” and it’s here, just as catchy and head bobbing as it was when you first heard it. The swinging country sway on “There Goes My Heart” ventures back into the Music City Row fold however, with better than expected results. Another hidden nugget to some is the slow dance approach the group takes on the fine “O What A Thrill” that recaptures styles of long ago. But if it still works, don’t fix it. Be fortunate or smart enough to know it still works! And then there’s a fabulous cover of Springsteen’s “All That Heaven Will Allow” off his Tunnel of Love album. By this time less than halfway through, you see that they’ve built themselves a fine body of work. Ditto for “Here Comes the Rain” which resorts to the work of “What A Crying Shame” without the great hook.
What is also apparent is the love of Tex-Mex music on tracks such as “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” featuring Flaco Jimenez on accordion and later on with the festive “Dance the Night Away”. The tender “Blue Moon” recalls the person who made it first famous — Ricky Nelson. Simple and poignant, it’s Malo’s baby and he never drops it. “I Don’t Care (If You Don’t Love Me Anymore)” is the first of two previously unreleased tracks but don’t come off as brilliant, just more of the infectious same. Perhaps the greatest thing about this collection is there really isn’t a tune that leaves a sour taste, although the blueprint can’t really be honed any more than it is. “To Be with You” sounds like earlier tunes but the flow is great.
A lively rendition of “Rancho Grande”, previously unreleased in the United States, is proof that the Mavericks are far greater than the sum of its Tex-Mex-rock-pop-country-crooner roots. One of the few bands that define American music makes you realize how precious this compilation truly is.