There is no other band like the Mavericks. The free-spirited originality and creative independence of the long-lived group, which can turn on a dime — or a 10 centavos piece, if you please — and credibly play in any number of country, Latin and pop styles, is right there in its name.
Starting in the punk and alternative-rock clubs of Miami in the late ‘80s — the Mavs once opened for Marilyn Manson, no kidding — the group went on to platinum-selling, Grammy-winning fame in Nashville while not just retaining but indeed spotlighting its expansive eclecticism. Across more than three decades (including two hiatuses and a number of lineup shifts; singer Raul Malo and drummer Paul Deakin are the only remaining original members) the band has remained a critical and popular success even as it continues to expand its musical horizons.
In recent times, this has meant delving deeper into the various Latin styles that are part of Malo’s heritage — he was born in Miami to Cuban-immigrant parents. It’s something he explored in his solo career and as a member of the Tex-Mex supergroup Los Super Seven, but never to such a full extent with the Mavericks.
On their 2020 album, “En Espanol,” the Mavs eschewed their country/retro-rock ‘n’ pop stylings, opting instead for a full-length Latin effort sung entirely in Spanish. The result was yet another high-water mark for the band: “En Espanol” debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s Latin Pop Albums chart.
The pandemic cut short the Mavericks’ 30th anniversary tour and also prevented the group from hitting the road in support of “En Espanol.” Like any number of other forward-thinking artists, the Mavs turned to the internet as a means of staying active and keeping in touch with their audience, creating “The Mavericks Show,” a series of pay-per-view concerts recorded live at their Nashville studio.
The shows mostly focus on “En Espanol” but dip into other eras of the band as well. Between-song interviews give insight into the material as well as offer behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to keep a band such as the Mavericks operating at the top of its game.
Luckily for the Mavs, finding a trumpet player in Cuba, as Abrams says, is ‘like going to Manhattan to find pizza.’
There’s no better illustration of this than in this film’s interview with saxophonist Max Abrams in which he describes the scramble to find a trumpet player to join the Mavericks in Cuba, where the band was about to film its 2017 PBS special, “Havana Time Machine.” Luckily for the Mavs, finding a trumpet player in Cuba, as Abrams says, is “like going to Manhattan to find pizza.” Trumpeter Lorenzo Molina Ruiz joined the band, played spectacularly and has been a member of the Mavs’ “Fantastic Five” auxiliary — Abrams, Ruiz, trumpeter Julio Diaz, accordionist Michael Guerra and bassist Ed Friedland — ever since.
Along with Malo, Deakin and other Mavs stalwarts — keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, who joined the band in 1994 and guitarist Eddie Perez, a member since 2003 — they form one of the most vibrant and musically encyclopedic live acts around. “Live in Nashville 2/27/21” displays that versatility when the band shifts gears from its Latin material to cover songs, some of them from its 2019 all-covers collection, “Play the Hits.”
The group is as comfortable and confident as you’d expect playing country classics like John Anderson’s “Swingin’,” Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by one of Malo’s heroes, Freddy Fender. But then there are some left-field pop choices as well: the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and the Police’s “Walking in Your Footsteps.” At the heart of all of these performances is the band’s exceptional musicianship and Malo’s sonorous, Orbisonesque vocals that, with a startling effortlessness, manage to outshine even the singer’s swanky wardrobe choices.
Social distancing prevented there being an audience for “The Mavericks Show.” If there was one, you would half-expect some wise-guy purist in the crowd to hoot, “Play country music!” But this is a band whose ready reply to that demand should always be: “OK! What country?”