AS Throwback: The Mavericks’ Stripped Back Version Of “Born To Be Blue”

The Mavericks

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

In the late ‘90s, The Mavericks made an incredibly exciting splash onto the global Americana scene. Building up their name throughout the decade, 1998’s “Dance The Night Away” became a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 4 on the charts thanks to its irresistible Southwest-y charm.

Then, in 2000, the band called it quits and went on a long hiatus. They reunited for a brief period of time in the early 2000s (and even made an album), but that too dissolved. It wasn’t until 2012 that the Florida-born band returned in full force. That May, they unveiled “Born To Be Blue,” the lead single off what would become their seventh studio album, In Time (which dropped February 2013 via Valory Music Group). 

With a vibe that could be considered “neo-” to a lot of things (neo-country, neo-rockabilly, neo-Tex Mex, etc), the song is one of the band’s finest. Lead singer Raul Malo’s honest, smooth voice carries a seducing melody through a Latin-meets-20th-century-American arrangement. The electric guitar chording—featuring the perfect amount of breakup—dreamily falls over a firm backbeat, while the accordion interjects with characteristically romantic fills. 

Only a few months after the song dropped, The Mavericks stopped by the American Songwriter office in Nashville to give a preview of the then-still-forthcoming In Time. Playing a stripped-back arrangement of “Born To Be Blue” with nothing but two acoustic guitars and an accordion, the tune took on a whole new dynamic… and nine years later, it holds up as a goosebump-inducing performance. With more sonic room for Malo’s voice, he injects the song with even more emotion and heart, making it a brilliant display of earnest songcraft.

Really, in some ways, you could argue that it’s “folk” at its best—not the genre tag, but the genuine, deeper meaning of the word. A synthesis of cultures, styles, and influences, put in a raw, acoustic setting with nothing but pure musicianship, expression, and storytelling. If you’re into that kind of thing, this is a prime example. Watch the video below:

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