Brand New Day
(Mono Mundo/Thirty Tigers)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The title track of the Mavericks’ first studio set on their own Mono/Mundo label refers to a lover pledging devotion to an old flame with the lyrics “I don’t want to live like a ghost from the past.” For those following this act from over a quarter century ago, those words can just as well refer to the unique brand of music the basic foursome (now expanded with “The Fantastic Four” backing) has shifted to over the decades.
Traces of any traditional country that once informed the Mavericks’ always diverse style, have gradually been erased, especially after its 2012 reunion. They have been replaced with an intoxicating fusion of ska, polka, waltz time, Cuban, Tex-Mex, tangos, cha-cha, Latin and even sweeping, retro inflected pop. Frontman/primary songwriter Raul Malo uses his extraordinary Presley/Orbison pipes to power through a rollicking album perfect for parties or ballroom lessons at your local dance studio.
To describe these ten songs as an eclectic mix of mostly pre-rock styles only scratches the surface of the Mavericks’ distinctive amalgam. Each selection blends influences, creating an Americana vibe like nothing else in its genre, or really any other. These original compositions could have been written in the ’40s, ’50s or ’60s and revived now. But unlike the band’s previous Mono (mixed in the titular mode), the sound on Brand New Day is expansive, spacious and presented in exquisitely mixed stereo.
From the jaunty, grin-inducing, accordion and banjo propelled opener “Rolling Along” that wouldn’t be out of place in a Western saloon, to the honking sax of the bouncy night clubby “I Think of You” (with its opening “A moonlight serenade” crooning lyrics) to the sprawling, Phil Spector enhanced “Brand New Day” and “I Wish You Well,” this is the Mavericks in full bloom. Unencumbered by commercial suits’ expectations of sales or radio play, the band is free to follow its own “non-gen” (as drummer Paul Deakin describes it) path.
There’s nothing “brand new” about the Mavericks’ music; yet in this era of by-the-numbers, narrowly pigeon-holed playing, the group’s inclusive, adventurous vision is refreshingly unconventional and truly alternative. And just try to get through this album without breaking out in a huge grin.