Picks and Pans Review: What a Crying Shame

updated 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/07/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Mavericks

The Mavericks represent an endangered species in '90s Nashville: taut, hard-edged country rock. Instead of the bland and so-called contemporary country currently in favor in Music City, these guys draw on the best '50s and '60s honky-tonk traditions. The comparisons that come to mind are with Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos and Roy Orbison, which isn't to imply the group hasn't crafted its own muscular but lyrical sound. If singer-songwriter Raul Malo has a Latin lilt to his tenor voice, it's because he's the first Cuban-American to hit country music.

The Mavericks' '92 debut, From Hell to Paradise, was merely so-so. This time Malo cowrote with NRBQ's Al Anderson, Stan Lynch of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and ace country songwriter Kostas, and the songs are much stronger. Crafty touches abound: an unexpected chord change in the old-fashioned wreeper, "Neon Blue;" an idiosyncratic, obsessively repeating guitar lick—an itch you can't scratch—in "The Things You Said To Me"; the perfect Hammond organ break in "All That Heaven Will Allow." The tour de force is "I Should Have Been Tine," which swells and builds, riding Malo's quavering vocal to a shamelessly over-the-top climax, its tympani and swirling strings worthy of an old Drifters hit. The Mavericks raise the ante for this year's country albums. (MCA)

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