Friday, August 22, 2008

Horns: Dance The Night Away

The Mavericks: Dance The Night Away


Floridian alt-country band The Mavericks rose quickly in the nineties, recording six albums, charting 14 singles, and winning several Country Music Awards and a Grammy. Their reign, however, was surprisingly short-lived: though founding singer-songwriter Raul Malo's solo output remains heavily blogged and in-demand, much of the end-run output from the Mavericks was weak; they broke up in 2003 after their last two albums failed to chart in the US.

The Mavericks are well known to me as a cover blogger; in fact, the success and failure of their many cover songs provides a fairly clear exploration of their rise and fall. Their early take on Hank Williams classic Hey Good Looking, on sophomore outing From Hell To Paradise, helped sustain the buzz from their first, self-titled album, bringing their early work to light. Later that decade, their cowboy-paced big band cover of Blue Moon, which appeared on the Apollo 13 soundtrack, was a relatively successful single in North America.

The Cat Stevens cover on their 1999 greatest hits compilation would eventually chart at #42, but the writing was on the wall. Their cover of Hot Burrito #1 was a decent if unexceptional addition to Gram Parsons tribute Return of the Grievous Angel, but didn't stand out as anything special. And soon would come sappy, too-jazzy covers of CCR classic Down on the Corner from the King of the Hill TV show, and a seriously disappointing big-band version of Elvis standard Are You Lonesome Tonight, which appeared on the soundtrack to Babe: Pig in the City, as harbingers of the end. Meanwhile, Raul Malo's decent cover of Springsteen's Downbound Train, on 2000 tribute Badlands, anticipated both the band's dissolution, and Malo's successful solo career.

Happily, their 1998 original single Dance the Night Away remains a stellar stand-out, cheerful and bright-sounding, reminiscent of their early work fusing southern swing, swamp rock, country, rockabilly, and big band arrangements, easily worth placement on the always-excellent Oxford American Southern Sampler series from that year. Malo's work as frontman always reminds me of Roy Orbison in his later, high-country rock days, which isn't a bad thing at all. Thanks to JerseyCynic for reminding me that I had this truly majestic dance number on tap for this week's theme. Meanwhile, here's one for die-hard Elvis fans only:

The Mavericks: Are You Lonesome Tonight

[purchase the Babe soundtrack!]

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