The Mavericks returned in 2013 with an acclaimed new album and much touring after nearly a decade's absence. Here they are back again in 2015, minus one of their founding members, but with another dynamite new effort.
The group announced in December 2014 that it had kicked out bassist Robert Reynolds from the band because he had developed an opiate addiction and was allegedly soliciting money from fans to support his habit. Reynolds is not listed as a contributor in the liner notes for "Mono," but publicity information indicates he played acoustic guitar on "Out the Door," a slightly jaunty weeper that concludes: "But in love and life there are no guarantees." Indeed.
Despite the behind-the-scenes turmoil, "Mono" is quite festive and certainly sounds like a band happy to be back and having a fun time. The one-two punch of "All Night Long" and "Summertime (When I'm With You)" starts the album on a sizzling note that should remove the phrase "wind chill warning" from your mind for an extended period. Both tracks prominently feature (as does the whole album) the Fantastic Four backing musicians, who lend horns, accordions, upright bass and more.
The sidemen also shine, as does guitarist Eddie Perez, on "That's What You to Do Me," one of three songs that lead singer Raul Malo co-wrote with longtime songwriting partner Alan Miller. Malo dials up Chet Baker and Freddy Fender on the jazzy "Fascinate Me," which also shows off Jerry Dale McFadden's classy organ. Perez really gets to his strut his stuff on the funky, album-ending cover of Doug Sahm's "Nitty Gritty" that comes off as the sequel to "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down." A fitting conclusion to The Mavericks' latest new beginning.