My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Robert Reynolds

Album Review: The Mavericks – ‘The Mavericks’ (1990)

the mavericksThe Mavericks’ debut album, released in early 1991 on the Miami-based Cross Three label, was not widely circulated until after their major label debut on MCA in mid-1992, but those who had the opportunity to hear the album, see the band in live performance, or hear the single “This Broken Heart” played on the radio in South Florida and Central, could tell that something interesting was about to happen.

As a band, the Mavericks were an oddity, coming from South Florida, hardly a hotbed for country music, with a Cuban-American lead singer who wrote all of the songs on the debut album, and had a voice reminiscent of Gene Pitney or Roy Orbison, a pair of prominent pop singers of the 1960s.

Often, early efforts by performers result in albums prove to be embarrassing when revisited later. Not so with The Mavericks which features an array of interesting songs four of which (“Mr. Jones”, “The End of the Line (Jim Bakker)”, “This Broken Heart” and “A Better Way”) would be reprised on their major label debut album From Hell To Paradise. The lead vocalist, Raul Malo, was still finding his voice, but it was clear that he was getting there. The band at this time consisted of singer Raul Malo, guitarist Ben Peeler, bassist Robert Reynolds; and drummer Paul Deakin. This would be the only album on which Peeler, a competent but somewhat pedestrian electric guitar player, would appear. By the time the next album appeared, he had been replaced by David Lee Holt.

In fairness to Ben Peeler, when he was playing acoustic guitar, steel guitar, dobro, mandolin or banjo, his work was very nice.

The album opens with “You’ll Never Know” an upbeat song that would have fit in the repertoire of Ricky Nelson during the 1950s & 1960s. It’s a very rock & roll but with fiddle and steel featured prominently in the mix.

“End Of The Line (Jim Bakker)” would be repeated on From Hell To Paradise using essentially the same arrangement. Another up-tempo song, Malo’s vocal is a bit more tentative on this album and the guitar is more acoustic.

“This Broken Heart” is a great song that would be repeated on From Hell To Paradise and likely would have charted if released as a single on a major label. This initial version features a somewhat more languid arrangement that would appear on the next album and Malo puts a little less muscle in his vocal than would later be the case. Disc jockeys around Central Florida would occasionally play either this track or the version from the following album, after the band reached prominence.

“Mr. Jones” would also appear on From Hell To Paradise with a nearly identical arrangement but with a more assertive vocal by Malo. It’s a good mid-tempo song.

“Tomorrow Never Comes” is a nice up-tempo jog-along country ballad of the kind that Buck Owens might have tackled in the 1960s. Debbie Spring’s fiddle is featured prominently at points throughout the song.

This is followed up by “The Lonely Waltz” which is, as advertised, a waltz. It’s not a great song but it is a good song with some nice mandolin work by Ben Peeler and harmonica by Homer Wills. I should note that Peeler seems most effective when playing acoustic guitar or mandolin on this album.

“Watch Over Me” is a very up-tempo number that kicks off with a fiddle, quickly joined by banjo – the melody and tempo are really too upbeat for the rather melancholy lyrics.

“A Better Way” has a kind of 50s country feel to it, a ballad with steel guitar serving as the lead instrument. This song would be reprised on From Hell To Paradise taken at a very slightly faster tempo but again with more forceful vocals by Malo.

In contrast “Another Lonely Life (Paul’s Song)” feels more like a folk ballad with a nice harmonica work by Homer Wills.

“I Don’t Care (If You Love Me Anymore)” is another loping ballad followed by the very up-tempo “Keep Moving On”, again with a melody that doesn’t quite fit the lyrics. I think that if Malo were to record this song again he would slow it down and put a little more emotion in the his vocals, which sound very detached emotionally.

“I’ll Give You Back (When You Belong To Me)” features some nice fiddle on a western swing melody. Again, sad lyrics coupled with a happy melody that does not quite fit the lyrics.

The album closes out with the very folk sounding “Strength To Say Goodbye”.

I like this album, which I purchased just before their major label debut, and would give it a B but if Malo were to simply strip out his original vocals and re-record them with his more mature vocal style of just a few years later, this would be a much better album, worthy of a B+.

Comparing this album with From Hell To Paradise which was issued just a year and a half later, the most striking thing is the growth in Malo’s vocal prowess. For an apt comparison check out Roy Orbison’s rather wimpy vocals on his Sun Records recording of “Ooby Dooby” with Roy’s powerful vocals on “Only The Lonely”. This is a group that started out good and got much better quickly predicated mostly upon the lead vocalist’s rapid maturation process and the decision to use some outside material, rather than sticking with exclusively Malo’s compositions.

Grade: B

Spotlight Artist: Raul Malo and The Mavericks

The-Mavericks-caro-2The Mavericks date back to 1989 when the band was founded in Miami by lead vocalist Raul Malo, guitarist Ben Peeler, bassist Robert Reynolds, and drummer Paul Deakin. The group released an independently produced album in 1991 before signing with MCA who released their first major label collection the following year. During the interim, Ben Peeler left the group and was replaced by David Lee Holt.

In its earliest days, the band was part of the alternative music scene in Miami, focusing mainly on punk with a heavy Latin influence, which undoubtedly came about in part due to Raul Malo’s Cuban heritage. They had moved in a more country direction by the time they signed with MCA. Their first charting single was a cover of Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin'” which peaked at #74 in 1992. Their MCA debut album From Hell to Paradise didn’t garner a lot of critical or commercial attention, but things began to change with 1994’s What A Crying Shame, when the title track reached #25 and two subsequent singles (“O What A Thrill” and “There Goes My Heart”) cracked the Top 20.

The Mavericks’ music was always eclectic and though three of their albums achieved gold or platinum certification, they never received much support from country radio. They never scored a Top 10 hit in the US, although three of their singles – “What A Crying Shame”, “O What A Thrill” and “Here Comes The Rain” cracked the Top 10 on the Canadian country charts. 1995’s “Blue Moon” reached #15 on Canada’s adult contemporary charts and 1998’s “Dance The Night Away” cracked the Top 5 in the United Kingdom. Stateside, their biggest hit was “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”, which peaked at #13.

The Mavericks left MCA following the release of 1998’s Trampoline and signed with British-based Sanctuary Records. That union yielded one album in 2003. After that they disbanded and the individual members pursued solo careers. A reunion tour in 2012 resulted in a new record deal with the Valory Music Group, which released In Time in early 2013. The album produced one charting single “Born To Be Blue”, which peaked at #46. The group’s second album for Valory, Mono, was released last month.

The Mavericks have undergone a number of personnel changes over the years, with Malo and Deakin the only remaining founding members. We hope you will enjoy our look back at their work, as well as some selections from Raul Malo’s solo discography, during the month of March.

Album Review: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Hearts In Armor’

Trisha’s second album, released in 1992, is still my favorite. Garth Fundis’s production is sympathetic, with a number of special guests who support the record without overwhelming it. Trisha, who I regard as one of the most naturally gifted vocalists in country music and a subtle and tasteful interpreter of emotion, was at the peak of her vocal powers and interpretative ability, and the song selection was excellent.

The hypnotically bluesy lead single ‘The Wrong Side of Memphis’ (written by Gary Harrison and Matraca Berg) was a big hit, peaking at #5, with a semi-autobiographical tale of a young singer on her way to Nashville. The instrumentation is punchy without being over-produced, with harmony vocalists including Raul Malo, whose Mavericks’ bandmate Robert Reynolds was shortly to become Trisha’s second husband. It is atypical of the album as a whole, which is focussed on failed and failing relationships, a theme perhaps resulting from Trisha’s own recent divorce from her first husband.

Harrison also co-wrote (with Tim Mensy) ‘Nearest Distant Shore’, a beautiful ballad addressed empathetically to a friend (or perhaps to the protagonist’s inner self) trapped in a destructive relationship, and advising:

You vowed you would not fail
But this ain’t success
It’s a living hell
There’s nothing left to lose
You’re already alone

Swim to the nearest distant shore
There’s only so much a heart can endure
You gave it your best
Forgive yourself
You can’t hold on anymore
It’s not as far as it might seem
Now it’s time to let go of old dreams
Every heart for itself
Swim to the nearest distant shore

Trisha perfectly conveys the intensity of the emotions here without ever seeming melodramatic, supported by Garth Brooks’ harmony.

The second single, and the album’s biggest hit, adhered to the general mood, while being less obviously personal. The exquisitely sung ‘Walkaway Joe’, featuring a harmony vocal from former Eagle Don Henley, tells the cautionary tale of a young girl who makes a catastrophic choice of boyfriend (“the wrong kind of paradise”). Ignoring her mother’s words of warning, she finds out the hard way when he robs a gas station and then abandons her. It peaked at #2 on Billboard, making it the album’s biggest hit, and was nominated for a Grammy.

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