PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


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.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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