Music

Raul Malo and the Mavericks Go 'En Español' on Their New Genre-Bending LP

Photo: Courtesy of JRPR Music

Alt-country veterans the Mavericks mix their Latin heritage with their rock and country roots on En Español.

En Español
The Mavericks

Thirty Tigers

21 August 2020

With their new album, En Español, the Mavericks are underlining the "alt" in their "alt-country" assignation, releasing a collection of songs solely with Spanish lyrics. This vibrant, sit-up-and-take-notice album has tunes that should bring the band's country and rock fans easily over the border. But the Mavericks also do a lot of genre-melding, taking original and classic Latin songs and making them their own using everything from vintage rock to mariachi.

Since the eclectic band origin in 1989, they have undergone break-ups, reunions, and personnel changes, leaving only lead singer Raul Malo and drummer Paul Deakin as original members. Certainly, one of the consistent elements has been the deep, passionate vocals of Malo, whose singing can bring to mind Roy Orbison or classic male crooners like Elvis Presley. In his solo career apart from the Mavericks, Malo teamed up with members of Los Lobos and others for a Tex-Mex supergroup called Los Super Seven, and he included several Spanish-language songs on his 2001 debut solo album, Today. Recording an all-Spanish album with the Mavericks has been a long-time dream of his.

What may catch the ear and heart of country fans is the deep emotional palette of the songs – no detached irony here. Amid the big reverby guitar of "Sombras and Nada Mas (Shadows and Nothing More)", Malo sings "I wish I could open my veins up slowly / And shed my blood upon your feet / So this way I can prove to you / That I can't love much more." The song was originally an Argentine tango and was a hit for Mexico's Javier Solis in the 1960s, but Malo modeled his after a more-dramatic, lesser-known version done by Spanish singer Rocio Durcal, which gave his big voice more room to take over. In "Mujer (Woman)", Malo takes listeners back to a slow doo-wop-like song of unrequited love, brightened by a light sprinkling of accordion and brought home with some retro twangy guitar.

Listeners who hear the breezy strings and 1960s folk-rock sounds of "Me Olvide de Vivir (I Forgot to Live)" and don't get access to the Spanish lyrics will miss out on the poignant regret of the narrator, who looks back at his life and sings a cautionary tale. "After running through life with no brakes / I forgot that life is lived for a moment / Always wanting to be first in everything / I forgot to live the small details." The song was originally in French, but a Spanish-language version was popularized by Julio Iglesias, although the Mavericks give it a bit more punch than the Latin pop icon.

In "Azul (Blue Sigh)" Malo again sings the praises of a woman he is crazy about, this time delivering the goods with a slow and sax-y horn section that could be swinging from E Street. That's if the E Street Band had an accordion and shekere mixing with their tremolo Fender guitars. Malo, who was born in Miami to parents of Cuban heritage, has had his own eclectic musical career that has mixed American and Latin genres. On "Sabor A Mi (Taste of Me)", he reconnects with his Caribbean roots with a slow, steamy bolero elevated by his clear, strong baritone. The lively "No Vale La Pena (It's Not Worth It)", another one of the album's Mexican songs, is steeped in mariachi sounds and features San Antonio's Flaco Jimenez on accordion.

The group's 30th-anniversary tour last year was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they have been putting those first shows online as a pay-per-view series on nugs.tv. Though Malo is Cuban-American and the lyrics are all in Spanish, the music certainly has a distinctive rock pedigree. The Mavericks demonstrate the truth in their band's name here more than ever, though the members have succeeded in making new music seem familiar and right at home in America, a melting pot of a country.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.