Saturday, December 28, 2013

My 2013 Top Ten Albums

The Mavericks -- In Time

"Come Unto Me"

They're ba-a-ack.

Oh, sure, various members of the Mavericks have been working here and there since they split in 2004; front man/vocalist Raul Malo alone released five solo albums in that time. But since I myself didn't discover them until 2008, I've been frustrated to think there'd be no new music coming from this rootsy Miami Tex-Mex quintet.

And then, late in 2011, the reunion buzz started, with the band -- or at least the most recent iteration of the band, with Eddie Perez on guitar -- slated to appear at a couple of festivals, including a September 2012 performance at the Americana Music Awards that nearly blew the roof off of Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. The fruit of this re-collaboration, In Time was released in February 2013, and I'm here to tell you it does not disappoint.

Everybody talks about Raul Malo's incredible voice, a dead ringer for Roy Orbison's, and yes, it's still in fine lonesome heart-melting form. (Whew!) Tracks like "In Another's Arms," "Call Me When You Get To Heaven"and the ultra-torchy "Forgive Me" definitely give the people what they want.

But this is no whine fest -- far from it. (Am I wrong in thinking that the track "That's Not My Name" is at least partly inspired by Malo's desire to get away from that Orbison image?) There's a taste of rockabilly ("Lies"), polka ("Fall Apart"), boogie-woogie ("As Long As There's Loving Tonight"), mariachi ("All Over Again"), and of course the alt-country crowd-pleasers "Back In Your Arms Again" and "Born To Be Blue."

And then this haunting beauty:

Like the soundtrack from a spaghetti western, this minor-key tango hints of danger, of sinister forces at work. But Malo's earnest vocals set him up as a champion against the forces of night: "If your world has only done you wrong /  And all you find yourself is all alone /  And if there's no one there to see you through /  I'll be there for you." That pulsating tango beat makes me see the white knight riding out to do battle, or perhaps a bullfighter stepping confidently into the arena.

The bridge is even more passionate, adding syncopation and vocal trills as the bravura emotion ratchets higher: "There is nothing that anyone can say to me /  To persuade me to change my mind needlessly / For here I am and I will stay /  To long for you in every way." He's flinging his heart into the ring, and right behind him are the other Mavericks, repeating his vows, Sancho Panzas to his Don Quixote.

That archaic wording in the title/refrain, "Come Unto Me"?  Somehow it seems just right, old-fashioned in a good way, a noble way. And -- dare I say it, ladies? -- it's sexy as hell. Not that we need a man to take care of us; far from it. But it sure would be nice to have a partner you never have to explain yourself to.

Dig that snaky surf guitar by Eddie Perez, Jerry Dale McFadden's Tejano-flavored accordion, the way Paul Deakins' drum kit sounds like super-sized maracas. That crusader trumpet at the end -- oh, my my my.

These guys seem so on the same page, instinctually playing together, getting into the full-blooded spirit of this track. I hate reunions that seem half-hearted, grudging, as if old hatchets hadn't really been buried.  I get no sense of that here. Even Malo, who had forged himself a decent solo career in the meantime, seems to be having a gas playing with his old mates again. And me, I'm having a gas listening to them do it.


NickS said...

That is a fun song, and I'm glad posted a live version, because it's easy to tell how much the band is enjoying playing (and has complete confidence in their ability to charm a crowd -- that is part of what makes it work, they're such showmen. Total professionals in the best of the word).

I don't know if I would call it, "haunting" . . . but why quibble.

Holly A Hughes said...

Why quibble indeed? Only I'm kinda haunted by it . . .

NickS said...

Fair enough, I may be just be temperamentally inclined to quibble. I'm not sure why I would or wouldn't call a song haunting, but if I think about it, my first thought would be a song like, "Suspension Bridge" which leaves you still processing the emotions after the song is over.

Interesting question.

On a totally unrelated note, I noticed something that I wanted to pass along. I was listening to "Cold Dog Soup" recently, and all of a sudden I thought about that chorus, which opens,

"Ain't no money in poetry
That's what sets the poet free

And I thought, "it takes a lot of nerve to rhyme 'poetry' and 'poet free'." That is the sign of an experienced writer and performer who knows what they can get away with. Because if he draws any attention to that rhyme at all, if it reaches the listener as a couplet, then it's just trouble. But he doesn't emphasize "free" and it works just fine.

So, my question for you, what's the nerviest rhyme you can think of? It makes me want to start collecting a list of examples. I feel like I should be able to think of some others that would match that.

NickS said...

One other thing.

Browsing around youtube a bit I happened across a recent performance of the Mavericks covering "Gentle On My Mind." I'm really impressed, that's a tough song, and they do a good job with it, and again come across as a very polished and smart band.