- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

Raul Malo and his Mavericks served up a generous, if uneven, taste of their pop-flavored reunion album during the first half-dozen or so songs Saturday night at the 9:30 Club. Still, the show didn’t catch fire until the band ripped into its eclectic catalog of country, salsa and conjunto-flavored hits.

The crowd, which featured a few more balding and boot-clad Wrangler-wearers than you usually see at the 9:30, was appreciative of the new material, and many seemed familiar with the French-cafe stylings of Mr. Malo’s “Wondering,” and a new Roy Orbison-flavored ballad, “In My Dreams.”

Nevertheless, the band’s sometimes ragged performances new lead guitarist Eddie Perez actually seemed surprised when it was his turn to solo on “Dreams,” and Mr. Malo bailed out early on “Wondering” when he broke the mouthpiece on a hand-held keyboard instrument didn’t do the new stuff any favors.

Other cuts from the group’s eponymous album, released last September, fared much better. The buttery-smooth pop of “I Want to Know,” with original Maverick Robert Reynolds on bass and Paul Deakin on drums essaying a “la-la-la, yeah-yeah-yay” chorus so sweet it would have made Shirley Jones and Susan Dey jealous, was delicious ear candy.

Another new song, “Time Goes By,” started off as a gravelly blues rave-up and built into a big, gorgeous “Hey Jude”-style singalong jam.

Mr. Malo’s goose-bumps-raising cover of the Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe,” also on the September release, showed again what an extraordinary, exhilarating voice he possesses.

The crowd didn’t start bouncing really bouncing until Mr. Malo and mates reached back for “What a Crying Shame,” the band’s first hit and still one of the best country songs ever, and their definitive version of Bruce Springsteen’s “All That Heaven Will Allow.”

Besides that baritone, the biggest part of Mr. Malo’s genius has always been his willingness to marry his love of classic American country music with the Latin rhythms of Miami, where he was born to Cuban-born parents, and south Texas.

That cross-cultural influence was on display in the exuberant “Shine Your Light,” also from the new album, and the Flaco Jimenez-fueled favorite “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” which closed the show. There was no straight-outta-San Antonio accordion solo, but the two keyboardists and the rest of the band filled the room with such a big sound, you hardly missed it.

Raul Malo and the Mavericks were a little ragged on the new stuff from their reunion album, but showed their old fire on past hits.

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