The die-hard fans of the Mavericks are easy to spot. They’re in the front, dancing like crazy. They throw their head back to howl the lingering “Oh” in “What a Crying Shame,” pretending they sound as perfect as lead singer Raul Malo. They’re also the ones who bring numerous photos and mementos collected during the band’s heyday in the mid-1990s.
“The die-hards are the ones that made it possible for us to resume,” says bassist Robert Reynolds, 41. “There’s never been a time when we’ve been approached by a fan on the street, where they haven’t said, ‘We sure miss the Mavericks,’ or ‘Is there a chance the Mavericks will ever get back together?’ There seemed to be a reason for it.”
Judging from recent Nashville concerts, there seems to be no disconnect between the glory days and the Mavericks revival. It’s still the same bouncy, swaying, Latin-inflected melodies that get people shaking their tail feathers. Especially among stodgy, hard-to-please Nashville audiences, that’s saying something.
In the early days, the Mavericks shook up the clubs in Miami because they refused to sing cover songs in the country bars. An inspired 1990 indie debut paved the way for their banner years on MCA Nashville, home to the biggest country stars of the 1990s. (Reynolds married one of them, Trisha Yearwood, at the Ryman Auditorium in 1994. They divorced in 1999. He has since remarried.)
Ten years ago, when nearly every new country album sold at least a half-million copies, the Mavericks scored big with their second MCA album, What a Crying Shame. Though they never secured a Top 10 hit, their distinctive music landed them two CMA awards for vocal group of the year, heavy video rotation, a Grammy for the single “Here Comes the Rain” and a gold album for 1995′s festive Music for All Occasions.
Domestic success tapered off at the end of the decade, although the 1999 single “Dance the Night Away” was a huge success in the U.K., enabling them to sell out six nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall. They imploded shortly thereafter, with guitarist Nick Kane getting the pink slip and other members working on side projects.
Though last year’s self-titled reunion album — with Eddie Perez replacing Kane and Paul Deakin returning on drums — resulted in virtually no airplay at country radio, the band has been fortunate to get spins in cities with progressive radio stations. As a result, an adventurous new audience has found them.
“It’s funny because we’re not a new band in any way, and we’re not just a county music band,” Reynolds says. “Because those stations are playing us, we seem to be a new band to a lot of people.”
The March tour dates mostly feature club dates in major markets. Reynolds says the horn section won’t be part of the show this time around. Instead, they’re opting for dual keyboards, for a “heavy organ, pounding piano” approach. And as the weather gets warmer, he hopes the tour bus will make frequent stops at festivals around the United States.
“I love playing outdoors, because it’s usually in the spring, summer or fall. I like festivals because you can play in the middle of the day. Everybody’s dressed for warm weather. I’m a Florida boy, so I love the warm weather. The less clothes you have on, the better — within the limits of the law, of course.”
Reynolds still keeps up with the country scene, citing recent songs from Kenny Chesney (“A Lot of Things Different”) and Wynonna (“Flies on the Butter”) as personal favorites. In fact, he has stepped away from a CMA luncheon for this particular interview and says he’s still proud to be seen as a peer among the country music industry.
“There’s more to come,” Reynolds says. “I’m not implying this isn’t the best we can do. It just feels like that we’re not done yet.”