Music News

The Mavericks Reunion at Stagecoach 2012

Those who fondly recall alt-country act the Mavericks' formative days here in South Florida will likely be buoyed by the fact that a reunion is in the works for next April. Three of the band's original members -- singer/songwriter Raul Malo, bassist Robert Reynolds, and drummer Paul Deakin -- reconvene at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California.

The band, whose local success belied the seeming incongruity of being birthed in an area where country and Americana were -- and remain -- something of an anomaly, went on to secure a national recording contract, numerous industry accolades, and worldwide popularity. Several hit records and critically acclaimed albums brought success throughout the '90s and the artistic integrity that enabled them to diversify their sound. Sadly, internal bickering, squabbles with their record label, and Malo's desire to pursue a solo career proved the band's undoing early in the millennium.

I've followed the Mavericks' progress from the beginning, when they released their excellent debut disc on the budding Y&T Records label. (I wrote the liner notes.) I still remember meeting Raul for lunch in Coconut Grove, where he shared his fondness for earlier forebears like Hank Williams and Roy Orbison, spoke of his ambition to obtain stardom, and resolved to retain his ties to his Cuban-American roots. He was a humble guy, and I'm still grateful for the time he paid a visit to a music business class I was teaching one night a week at a local high school. He even consented to perform an acoustic set for a dozen of my students. More on that here.

My ties to the Mavs were maintained when my best friend, Rob, became their sound engineer in the mid-'90s and I had the chance to reconvene with the band during its triumphant return to South Florida, an engagement at the late, great Stephen Talkhouse on South Beach.

Since their split, Malo's gone on to a successful solo career, releasing albums that have found him covering timeless standards in addition to recording with the Latin supergroup Los Super Seven. Reynolds played with the pop all-star outfit dubbed Swag, and both he and Deakin have become in-demand session musicians. 

Happily, I've had opportunity to maintain some contact with Malo, having interviewed him several times over the past decade. So when word came down about this planned reunion, it brought to mind some sentiments he had expressed to me in our last exchange, in 2008. 

"I don't miss the Mavericks days," he said. "I don't dwell back on the past or look back on it much... and honestly, the Mavericks are a bittersweet memory for me. There are a lot of great memories, and there are also a lot of shit memories. And things didn't end so happily. It's not like we're all great friends. This ended up in ugly lawsuits that cost me a lot of money and caused a lot of pain and suffering for my family and my kids, and it was all needless and it was all pointless stuff, and so I'm honestly glad it's over, and I'm glad I'm finally on my own, and if I had to do it over, I probably would have done it sooner, but I didn't have the strength or the confidence to realize that hey, I can do this.

"But at the end of the day, I can entertain a crowd with just me and my acoustic, and once you do that, you don't really need anybody else, and so it wasn't the kind of thing where I needed a band... Anybody can spin it any way they want it, but I was there [chuckles], and I know what went on, and I know what was contributed and what was not contributed.

"People latch onto it because the Mavericks were a successful band, and people hang onto it because it defines them. It has nothing to do about keeping the band together. It has more to do about keeping their fantasy world together. People want to hear the Mavericks not because of this great musicianship or whatever; it's because of them. Because of their own lives. It's like, oh, the Mavericks were part of a soundtrack of their lives, and I understand it. I do. I can imagine what Paul McCartney still hears, ya know?"

Still, a lot can change in three years, and whatever the reasons that bring them back together -- reconciliation, financial incentive, or merely the desire to recapture former glories -- one can't help but feel this is cause for celebration. "Whatever animosity there might have been is now water under the bridge, and the guys are eager to start playing again," Mavericks spokesman Cary Baker of Conqueroo Publicity told me, and there's no reason to question that pronouncement. From the news release announcing the reunion, Malo adds: "This time out, we'll get to do things right and finish what we started on our own terms -- not subject to the powers that be."

It's also worth noting that Stagecoach provided the venue for a Poco reunion a couple of years back, and that too offered cause for rejoicing. Hopefully the Mavs will use the occasion to relaunch, retool, tour, and, if conditions prove favorable, to record. 

I for one hope to see them perform here in South Florida, and I can only imagine what a rowdy welcome they'll receive.

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Lee Zimmerman