A couple of years ago I sat in a New York news channel's green room for an hour and a half waiting for Mavericks front man Raul Malo to finish soundchecking for a three-minute on-air live slot he was scheduled to perform in support of his majorly slept-on 2001 solo album, Today. After I exhausted every small-talk topic in existence with his publicist (and even gone around the corner for expense-accounted pizza), the man told me with a sigh that I might consider heading home and hooking up with Malo on the phone the next day--a bummer, to be sure, but a pretty apt illustration of Malo's attention to detail. On The Mavericks' new self-titled disc (the follow-up to 1998's Trampoline and the bookend to what bassist Robert Reynolds calls a "hiatus turned into a breakup turned into a reunion") Malo indulges that attention as ever, frosting bouncy Roy Orbison rockers with layers of bright-sky horns and creamy keyboards, pairing his resonant croon with reverbed electric twang, swirling flecks of his Cuban-American heritage into slo-mo ballads perfect for the midnight beachside rendezvous in your mind. Onstage with an ensemble whose expense-accounted pizza I'm glad I wasn't paying for, Malo reproduced Today's vintage flair with road-dog aplomb, so expect a similar depth of sound from these back-in-the-saddle lovers-not-fighters. Without waiting an hour and a half, either.
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