Originating in Miami, hardly a traditional hotbed of country music, the Mavericks — featuring the tremulous tenor vocals of Raul Malo, a modern-day Roy Orbison — constitute country’s coolest ensemble, synthesizing ’50s country and ’60s pop and rock with intelligence, verve, and cultural variety.
On their third major-label album, Music for all Occasions (replete with cheesy, mock-’50s album art), the CMA nominees turn the clock back again, this time gutsily delving into Nashville’s countrypolitan crooner style, which is largely regarded as country’s artistic low point. ”Foolish Heart” has the 1961 gloss of Elvis’ Something for Everybody album, with washes of female background singers and all the rough edges safely filed away. Yet the song likely to raise the greatest skepticism is a remake — with Trisha Yearwood — of the infamous Nancy and Frank Sinatra collaboration, ”Somethin’ Stupid.”
As fun as it is to revisit these sounds, the Mavericks’ paean is also a reminder that much of the music back then was dreadfully bland. It’s great to see this group run creative rings around such contrived contenders as BlackHawk and Sawyer Brown, but as their catchy single, ”Here Comes the Rain,” proves, the Mavericks entertain best when they party rather than practice the art of kitsch. B+
Music for All Occasions