It’s a shame that The Mavericks often are thrown into the catch-all bin of country music with such disparate artists as Willie Nelson and Reba McEntire
That’s probably because the band’s roots are sunk in country and because no other genre comes close to fitting.
But it’s not a good fit at all, and it does a disservice to fans who rarely explore that bin and the treasures inside.
The Mavericks are one of those treasures ‑ one that can be explored Thursday when the band returns to the Big Top Chautauqua near Bayfield.
Lead singer Raul Malo’s operatic voice – which also can soar and scream when he needs it to – is like none other in popular music today. Listen to his haunting version of “Harvest Moon” or “Every Little Thing About You” and you can hear echoes of Roy Orbison or even Dean Martin.
But then he and the band – which features eight artists playing horns, accordions, bass, guitars and piano – veers toward its Latin roots with such traditional songs as “Volver,” and then across genres to Elvis-Brian Setzer-inspired rock, and even some swing.
So it’s Cuban. It’s rockabilly. It’s honky-tonk. It’s a wild fiesta that defies all categorization.
When we had a chance to chat with Mavericks guitarist Eddie Perez Wednesday, we asked him about the rose he wears in his lapel, the scarf around his neck, and the fedora atop his head with long hair flowing underneath as he jams across the stage.
We also asked him to do the impossible: define the Mavericks.
Answer: That’s the beauty of this whole thing. In my opinion, what I’ve seen over the years as a friend and fan of the band before I was in it, it’s always been a moving, evolving art piece, going from one inspiration to the next. It’s undefinable – we have the blessing of all these virtuoso musicians on stage at one time, and it’s about the spirit and the energy, not the genre. Somewhere along the way we stopped trying to define it or put it in a box.
Question: You play with enormous style and energy. Where does that come from?
Answer: To put it as simple as I can, if I were in the audience, what would I want to see? What would inspire me? What would wow me? The lead guitarist's role is to be that flash – to be that guy who is wild but restrained, classy but on the edge. What I do on stage is a visual representation of what that music is to me. … This business is a grind. But after the long drive and all the planning, when I step on stage and put that guitar on, I still feel like I’m 14 and making music for the first time. In my mind, the travel is what we get paid for. When we play the music, that’s for us. That’s for me to find my most genuine self.”
Q: This is a return trip to the Chautauqua for you. Why are you back, and what can people expect to see?
A: It’s our third time, I think, and I love this venue. There’s always such great people there and they’re always so spirited. I just love the tent and the outdoor thing and it lends itself to a really great time.
The way I think about it, when people pay money to buy a ticket and drive or fly to see us, people are entitled to the kind of show they want to see. The Mavericks always show up to deliver an amazing show. That you can count on.”
The Mavericks take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Tent seats were sold out Wednesday, but grounds passes were available.