Go ahead, call it a comeback. After all, it’s been 10 years since their last album, and more than 20 years since they first stormed onto the scene from south Florida with their genre-melding brand of country music.
For this adventurous and celebrated group, it’s also a bit of unfinished business.
The Mavericks are back on the road in support of their recent release “In Time,” returning to Sacramento’s Crest Theatre on Sunday, roughly seven months removed from the dance-in-the-aisles marathon they played there in March.
“It was one of the best shows we had all year in terms of audience response,” said music promoter Scott Brill Lehn. “(The Mavericks) have been a pretty strong staple in nontraditional country music for 20 years. They’re a great live band and we’re excited to have them back.”
“In Time” reunites core members Raul Malo on vocals, bassist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin, with fellow alumnus lead guitarist Eddie Perez – recently featured to fine effect on Dwight Yoakam’s 2012 release, “3 Pears” – and Jerry Dale McFadden on keyboards. It also shows the Grammy-winning band has plenty left to say.
“Robert (Reynolds) always felt it was unfinished business,” said Deakin of The Mavericks’ 2004 split and resulting years of inactivity. Deakin chatted with The Bee by telephone from New Braunfels, Texas, where the band sat in for a local PBS station’s pledge drive. “We grew musically and as people. The brotherhood is as strong as it’s ever been and it seems like the band should keep playing.”
Critics and listeners agree. “In Time” has been critically and commercially well-received since its February release, reaching as high as No. 8 on Billboard’s country-album chart.
Two decades ago, The Mavericks broke out of Miami with a style steeped in tradition, but with their ears keenly tuned to rock ’n’ roll, Tejano and classic pop.
Their 1994 album “What a Crying Shame,” with its polished, retro-yet-contemporary sound fronted by vocalist Malo’s soaring, son-of-Orbison tenor, grabbed the attention of critics and audiences alike, going platinum with songs such as “There Goes My Heart” and “O What a Thrill.”
Industry awards quickly followed: back-to-back Country Music Association awards for Vocal Group of the Year in 1995 and 1996, and a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for their gold-selling “Music for All Occasions.”
Country legend Tammy Wynette once said of the band: “Their music is very contemporary, but it shows their love of the old sounds.”
While few could question the band’s New Traditionalist credentials, The Mavericks have always been eager to turn the music on its head: Tex-Mex accordion and back beats, brassy horn arrangements, south-of-the-border dance rhythms – sometimes all at once, especially in their energetic live shows.
But by 2004, The Mavericks were, in the words of one of their early tunes, just a memory.
“Ten years on the road, 200-plus dates a year, we were burned out,” Deakin said. “We eventually became a cover band of ourselves.”
Malo soon spun off a solo career. Reynolds pursued projects of his own and it appeared the band was gone for good.
But in early 2012, promoters started feeling out band members about a possible reunion tour. Deakin, Malo and Reynolds – the trio who formed The Mavericks back in Miami all those years ago – sat down to dinner and mulled the possibilities of writing, recording and hitting the road once again.
“I sat for dinner with Robert and Raul,” Deakin said. “Raul said, ‘I have some new music.’ It was a month and a half from talking about it to going to the studio. We hadn’t played or seen each other in so long. We remembered the magic, but we didn’t feel it again until we recorded. It was a special time.”
The wait is rewarded on “In Time.” Its 14 tracks extend and expand on The Mavericks’ multidimensional brand of neo-country, with horns and accordion adding punch and spice to the mix.
“It took life for us to get to this point – everybody was so free,” Malo said in the band’s biography of recording “In Time.” “We went where the songs took us with a singularity of purpose. We came into make music as grown-ups, to make music as men.”
The record certainly shows off their versatility. There’s joyous two-step “Back in Your Arms Again” and “Dance in the Moonlight” (which received an extended workout back in March), the country-politan croon of “In Another Arms,” the devil-may-care swing of “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight,” and the full-throated machismo of album highlight “Come Unto Me,” reprised in Spanish as the dramatic set-closer “Ven Hacia Mi.”
“We never put any boundaries on what we did genre-wise,” Deakin said. “Things that touch us – they seep in. People ask, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I say, ‘We play joyful music.’ It makes for a good night.”
When: 8 p.m. Sunday