No matter how The Mavericks have been positioned in the business — platinum-selling 1990s country stars or recently reunited Americana-Latin mash-up — they’ve presented an alternative to whatever popular sounds surround them at the moment. For starters, they developed a habit of darting from stylishly retro honky-tonk to plush pre-rock pop ballads and peppery Tejano rhythms (and country hasn’t exactly flaunted a Latin influence in the many decades since the format shed the “western” half of its name).
After what turned out to be a decade-long hiatus, The Mavericks regrouped with an altered lineup –including singing/songwriting frontman Raul Malo, founding drummer Paul Deakin and longtime guitarist Eddie Perez — and cut last January’s sprawling, red-blooded comeback album In Time. Thirteen months later, they’ve followed with Mono, like its predecessor, co-produced by Malo and Niko Bolas. Now that the novelty of the band being back in action has worn off, what’s left is the splashy, seasoned spirit of new-millennium Mavericks. Deceptively simple songs of lust and chivalry get a vigorously swinging, guitar-heavy but horn-heated attack. They veer from big-band salsa (“All Night Long”) to frisky, danceable Latin rock (“What You Do to Me”), swaggering, shuffling R&B (“Do You Want Me To”) and more mellow pop flavors, closer to Neil Diamond, really, than country. Malo’s grand tenor and dynamic range take the tracks to even greater expressive extremes, whether lavish tenderness, breezy flirtation or the roaring intensity of a Latin pop superstar. It’s big, bold and still stands out next to anything coming from Nashville.