On their ninth studio album, 2017's Brand New Day, the Mavericks kick things off with "Rolling Along," a sprightly tejano-flavored number that seems to be a testament to optimism, but on closer inspection turns out to be a ringing endorsement of smoking reefer. The track's combination of superb craft, retro style, and a playful insistence on not taking things too seriously puts it in league with a significant percentage of the Mavericks' body of work, and that's certainly their modus operandi on Brand New Day. There are more vintage pop and Latin influences at work on this LP than the group's biggest hits of the '90s, but anyone who has been following their post-Trampoline career will have no trouble recognizing this as the Mavericks, and Raul Malo's voice is still smooth as silk and big as all outdoors. As for his collaborators, the core instrumentalists (Eddie Perez on guitars, Jerry Dale McFadden on keys, and Paul Deakin on drums and melodic percussion) are still masters of stylistic shape-shifting, transforming from a taut Cuban dance combo ("Easy as It Seems") to a pre-rock pop act complete with honking sax ("I Think of You"), and then giving out with a romantic slow dance in 3/4 time ("Goodnight Waltz"), all within the space of three tracks. (The fact the next tune is a malevolent Latin shuffle complete with dirty electric guitar breaks, "Damned [If You Do]," only reinforces the effect.) In terms of the quality of the songs and performances, and the breadth of the Mavericks' vision, Brand New Day is as good as anything they've done since 1998's ambitious Trampoline. And if this isn't necessarily better than that LP, that's because that album confirmed just how much this group could do, while this one shows they're still doing it. But on Brand New Day, the Mavericks aren't just showing off an impressive palette of styles and influences; they're demonstrating they can write and play as well as anyone in pop and country in 2017, and the album is a rich, thoroughly satisfying delight. If you don't have fun listening to Brand New Day, then you may want to consider the possibility you don't know how to enjoy yourself. ~ Mark Deming
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