Silky-voiced front man Raul Malo and The Mavericks, known by fans worldwide for their genre-shattering country/rock/Tex-Mex-and-more fusion, perform their trademark musical feats on the band’s first all-Spanish album, out Aug. 21, and simply titled, En Español.
The album features five original and impressive, even intoxicating, tracks, penned all or in part by Malo, and seven timeless Latino standards, including “Sabor a Mi,” “No Vale La Pena,” and “Sombras Nada Mas.” The album takes listeners on a musical journey of wide-ranging styles and sounds, with the originals sometimes even eclipsing the classic covers, such as with “Poder Vivir,” an upbeat polka with deep lyrical content, and the sultry “Mujer,” where Malo’s vocal instrument seduces with skill.
Malo, who reunited with his band in 2012 after almost a decade apart, spoke with Tejano Nation about the new album, and said he knew he wanted to create this Spanish album with the Mavericks and not as a solo artist.
“With the Mavericks, I knew that it would be sort of this hybrid,” Malo said during a phone conversation. “It wouldn’t be a traditional record, by any means, you know? It wouldn’t be a traditional Mexican or Cuban or Puerto Rican record… And having the Mavericks make this record, it’s a band coming from a different world into this world and I wanted that feeling, that sort of feeling of the unknown, the new, the exciting.”
On En Español, the Mavericks do indeed traverse new, exciting territory with the mix of originals and covers of established Latino songs. Standouts include the haunting, brass-driven original offering, “Recuerdos,” and the cover of a folksy ballad made famous by Julio Iglesias, “Me Olvidé de Vivir,” where Malo bares his soul.
“The (songs) were carefully selected and for different reasons,” Malo said of the seven classics on En Español.
Of the Iglesias track, Malo said he loved the song and always thought it could offer “more of a folksy, country kind of vibe.”
“It’s a beautiful story and it’s the story of, gosh, I think of just about every musician that’s ever put on a guitar and stepped on a stage,” Malo said of “Me Olvidé de Vivir.”
Malo, a first-generation Cuban American, said he had long wanted to explore his Latin roots with an album of Spanish music, but by no means does he see himself as the next Iglesias, Juan Gabriel or Luis Miguel. The album is more of an homage to the music of his youth and culture.
“I don’t have any delusions of all of a sudden being a Latin music artist,” Malo said. “We’re still the Mavericks, you know. We just wanted to make this record because the music means so much. It’s my mother tongue. These are songs that I grew up listening to as a kid. And it’s really kind of a tribute to my parents and to the whole immigrant community.”
En Español purposely offers sounds from around the Latin American region, including songs from Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina, as Malo wanted to honor all types of Latino music and forget about borders of any kind.
“I wanted this record to be inclusive,” Malo said. “There’s so much anti-immigration stuff and there’s so many sentiments now even Latinos amongst ourselves. We always, you know, say, ‘If you do Cuban music, you can’t do Mexican music. If you do Mexican music, you can’t do Cuban music.’ And I’m not saying that anybody (actually) says that, but it’s almost like a perceived barrier anyway.”
The album’s genres, like its cultures, span a wide spectrum from ballads to boleros yet the album’s first single, “Poder Vivir,” with its strong Tejano/Mexican influences, has already affected airplay on Tejano stations around South Texas, with the song reaching the No. 1 spot on the highly-regarded Tejano Gold Countdown by Rudy Treviño.
Malo addresses the role that the Tejano/Tex-Mex sound has always played in the Mavericks music, citing the participation of world famous San Antonio accordionist Flaco Jimenez early in the band’s career, as a major turning point for the group.
“When Flaco recorded ‘All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down’ with The Mavericks in 1995…that started us on the path that we’re on now, that we have been on for the last 20-some odd years,” Malo said.
“Because of that song, because of that collaboration, because of that sound, it was a meshing of both worlds and I wanted that. I was seeking that early on and it happened. And when it happened, it set us on this path of searching for this blend where all these worlds come together. And it’s such a beautiful place.”
The Mavericks reach this beautiful place musically with En Español and while the album isn’t a traditional Tejano album the Mavericks’ Tex-Mex leanings, including playing songs like the mariachi classic “Volver, Volver” as part of their raucous live shows, have long been leading them to this point.
“We’ve never done a whole Spanish album,” Malo said. “I mean we’ve played Spanish music throughout the years… That’s always really fun. So we’ve been hinting at this for a long time.”
In a fitting reunion, Jimenez and his accordion make a return appearance on this new album on the cover of “No Vale La Pena.”
“I think it brings it full circle to have Flaco on this record at this point in his life and in our lives,” Malo said.
En Español marks yet another cross-cultural musical milestone for the Mavericks and Malo said he hopes new listeners will give the album a chance. Already, current Mavericks’ fans, who Malo said enjoy all kinds of music, have shown love to the new album despite not understanding the Spanish language, as evident in comments on social media from Facebook to YouTube.
“This is a band of real musicians that have put a lot of effort into this record,” Malo said.
While the Mavericks are an American band, Malo said their musicians comprise various cultural backgrounds and this is reflected in the music they produce, especially on En Español.
“I want people to listen with open minds and open hearts and like, ‘Hey, yeah, this is an American band but …We’re paying tribute to some of our favorite music you know because we have Mexicans in the band, we have Cubans in the band, we’ve got everything in the band,” Malo said. “The Mavericks represent a big piece of what Americana is, of what America is. We’re this hybrid band anyway. This is our tribute to some of our favorite music and we just hope people dig it.”
Join the musical journey on En Español and discover the magic and magnetism of Malo and The Mavericks. The album is available for pre-order and each album will come with a translation of the lyrics.
The Mavericks En Español Track Listing:
1. La Sitiera / The Sitiera – Writer: Rafael López González
2. Recuerdos / Memories – Writers: Raul Malo, Alejandro Menéndez Vega
3. No Vale La Pena / It’s Not Really Worth It – Writer: Alberto Aguilera Valadez
4. Poder Vivir / To Live – Writers: Raul Malo, Alejandro Menéndez Vega
5. Sombras Nada Más / Shadows and Nothing More – Writers: José Maria Contursí, Francisco J. Lomuto
6. Mujer / Woman – Writer: Raul Malo
7. Me Olvidé de Vivir / I Forgot to Live – Writers: Pierre Abel Billon, Julio Iglesias, Jacques Able Jules Revaud
8. Pensando en Ti / Thinking of You – Writers: Raul Malo, Cynthia Susana Medina
9. Sabor a Mi / Taste of Me – Writer: Alvaro Carrillo Alarcón
10. Suspiro Azul / Blue Sigh – Writers: Raul Malo, Alejandro Menéndez Vega, Lisset Diaz Guevara, Miguel Comas
11. Cuando me Enamoro / When I Fall In Love – Writers: Mario Panzeri, Daniele Pace, Roberto Livraghi
12. Me Voy a Pinar del Rio / I’m Going to Pinar del Rio – Writer: Néstor Manuel Pinelo Cruz
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