MAVERICKS AIN'T COWBOYS: Miami is known for orange juice (puleeeeze, not O.J.), crowded beaches, hordes of retirees and long days drenched in humid sunshine. Country music just ain't one of them things we think of when we think of that big city in Florida. But all that changed for country music fans last year as The Mavericks rose to prominence like a melancholy moon over Miami.
The Miami-bred group's second major label release, What A Crying Shame, yielded the sweeping, graceful ballads "O What A Thrill" and the title track, both propelled by Cuban-American singer Raul Malo's honeyed baritone resurrecting memories of Roy Orbison's haunting pop masterpieces of the '60s.
We recently talked with Mavericks' bassist Robert Reynolds (he's the long-haired one married to country star Trisha Yearwood):
TW: Everyone has people who influenced them--people they heard when they were young--who inspire them to pick up a guitar and try to do it themselves.
RR: Oh, yeah. We were in a studio the other day, and put on some Howlin' Wolf, and it was funny because there was a second there when I was listening and I could hear Mick Jagger and the early Rolling Stones. It was just amazing. You know, I've got to be honest and say I heard the Stones before I ever heard of Howlin' Wolf. In a way, that's what turned me on to country music.
I'd see writers' credits on old LPs I'd buy. I'd see a Hank Williams credit on a pop recording and I would check out this Hank Williams thing. Sometimes you turn onto something and it comes to you later that they were so very inspired or directly connected to a music from years earlier.
TW: It's like a trail that leads back in time. You go from the Stones back to Howlin' Wolf and then back to slaves working in the cotton fields and all the way back to the music of Africa.
RR: I think of music from parts of Europe, the folk music, as the country music of that region and those communities. Even the music of South America and the Caribbean islands is relative.
The Mavericks have never been one of those bands that have liked to stand up and defend "pure country music." That's a limited view of music when you talk of keeping something pure. Country music has never been purely any one thing.
TW: We've heard you're not any one kind of band on stage. You did some socially-conscious material on the first MCA album and Roy Orbison-like songs on the second, but you also swing and play rockabilly. Is that an accurate description of you guys live?
RR: For those who aren't terribly educated in rockabilly, they might use that description, but if you know rockabilly well you'd realize in a second that we're not a rockabilly band. We don't have that feel.
Some of the swing, kind of jump stuff that we're doing stems from the country shuffle that we love about Buck Owens on through our digging Louis Prima. We're not any one of those things, but a hybrid of all of them. The Orbison thing is us borrowing so heavily, with great thanks, from a person who really made some great music in his lifetime.
We end up being this run through different musical fields and it's all still very relative to our love of country music. We just want our music to bring out good feelings and make people feel we gave them our all and their money's worth.
That's what made our past year a very big year for us. We went out to do what we do best and that's to play live. The studio is not the strength of the band.
We began the group on the club level, usually grungy little clubs specializing in live, original music. We played two-and-a-half and three hours quite often. We got used to performing live, got very comfortable with it and enjoyed it. And then when you get to the level where you're a touring act, playing 60 minutes opening for someone in an arena or a touring club, all of that past comes back to you and you deliver a bit of it.
I don't talk much about awards or anything, but one is rather pertinent to what we're talking about. That's the Pollstar Award (given by an industry magazine tracking the success and failures of touring acts). The reason I'm really proud of that one is because we got that for New Touring Group. It's an award that's relative to our shows and it's easier to accept that because we did go out and work really hard last year. Last year was an honest day's work.
This all coming in the face of a Grammy nomination (for best country album). A Grammy seems pretty far-fetched. It's like, "Yeah, and tomorrow you'll step on the moon." That sounds more realistic to me.
As it turned out, the Grammy Award didn't become a reality. The award for best album went to The Mavericks' tour mate, Mary-Chapin Carpenter for Stones In The Road. You can see two of the more creatively challenging acts in the progressive country music world at the Tucson Convention Center arena on Friday, March 10. Tickets are $21.50. The Mavericks open the concert at 8 p.m.
LAST NOTES: Former Pixie Frank Black hits Club Congress with Chris Cacavas, Inch and Duane Jarvis this Friday night--tickets are $10 in advance.
The Silos play Congress with Rich Hopkins and Luminarios on Sunday. Admission is $5. Don't forget Laika and The Cosmonauts ride the icy Norwegian waves of surf-rock at the club on Tuesday, March 14. Admission is $4.
Other interesting Sunday concerts: The Kingston Trio at the Temple Of Music and Art (Call 3274809 for ticket information), and love-rock revolutionary Lois at the Downtown Performance Center (Call 628-1650 for info).
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