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The Mavericks


The Mavericks have always been explorers.

For decades, they've created the kind of multicultural Americana that reaches far beyond America itself, blending their favorite stateside sounds — including rock-and-roll, country, and R&B — with Tex-Mex twang, Cuban rhythms, Jamaican ska, and other Latin influences. The exploration continues on "Moon & Stars," a progressive album that finds Raul Malo and company continuing to push the envelope, exploring the outer orbits of an organic, otherworldly sound that remains entirely their own.

The sound of a band refuses to be limited by its own legacy. Three days after receiving the Trailblazer Award at the 2021 Americana Music Honors & Awards, the Mavericks hit the highway once again, resuming the busy touring schedule that's kept the band in sharp shape. Joined by longtime co-producer Niko Bolas, they recorded portions of "Moon & Stars" while on the road, setting up camp at studios in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Maurice, Louisiana, before finishing the record at home in Nashville. Tracking sessions were fast and inspired, built around the chemistry of four musical brothers — Malo, guitarist Eddie Perez, keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, and drummer Paul Deakin — who've logged thousands of hours onstage together, racking up multiple Grammy, ACM, and CMA Awards along the way.

On the 11 tracks on "Moon & Stars," the Mavericks are larger than life, not only musically, but literally, too, thanks to an expanded roster that features a three-part horn section, an accordionist, and a guest list stocked with powerhouse singers like Nicole Atkins, Maggie Rose, and Sierra Ferrell. Songs like the album's tropical title track prove there's strength in numbers, with Ferrell and Malo piling their voices into thickly-stacked harmonies over a Cuban charanga groove. Rose appears on Look Around You, an album highlight that splits the difference between timeless country-soul and classic R&B. Saxophonist Max Abrams takes centerstage on Here You Come Again to channel the steamy 1980s textures of George Michael's Careless Whisper, while Atkins adds sauce and swagger to Live Close By (Visit Often), a roadhouse roots-rocker whose horn arrangement nods to the influence of Stax Records and Muscle Shoals.

Malo co-wrote Live Close By (Visit Often) with K.T. Oslin, and it's not the only high-powered songwriting collaboration to fuel "Moon & Stars." None other than Bernie Taupin, the iconic lyricist behind countless Elton John hits, contributed to the record's opening track, The Years Will Not Be Kind. A brooding song that evokes western trail rides one minute and Quentin Tarantino film scores the next, The Years Will Not Be Kind dates back to the early 2000s, when the Mavericks were still riding high on the success of songs like All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down (their genre-bending hit with Flaco Jiménez) and the Grammy-winning Here Comes the Rain. It's a song about exhaustion and rough-and-tumble durability, and Malo — a road warrior who's seen plenty of both — delivers each line with a low register that channels Johnny Cash.

"Moon & Stars" doesn't spend much time looking backward, though. Look Around You is a modern-day rallying cry for brotherhood, aimed at a society threatened by violence and partisan bickering. "Our differences are what will make the world go on," Malo sings, his velvety voice backed by Maggie Rose and Kaitlyn Connor's harmonies. He goes even deeper with And We Dance. The song's operatic vocals and tremolo guitars may channel Roy Orbison, but its message — inspired by a poignant, emotionally-charged news segment about Russia's invasion of Ukraine — is a contemporary call for strength, resistance, and resilience.

Everything comes full circle with the album's final track, Turn Yourself Around. Heavily inspired by the Beatles, the song was recorded on Ringo Starr's birthday at Nashville's Blackbird Studios. For Malo, it represents a blending of past and present — as a commitment to whatever the future may hold.

To the moon and back, the Mavericks are still exploring.

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