Doing it their way

Kenny Mathieson considers the latest chapter in the career of country rock renegades The Mavericks.

It would be easy to file The Mavericks' excellent fourth album, Music For A ll Occasions (MCA), under the same retro-kitsch impulse which has encouraged what is arguably the most bizarre revival in the entire history of youth cults, that ofeasy listening. Certainly, the pastiche Ray Conniff cover and its spoof liner notes back up that perception, but there is more to the music than just recycling what bass player Robert Reynolds describes as ‘bachelor pad music‘.

‘I guess people are attracted to the bad taste and the campness of it all.‘ is Reynolds's best shot at accounting for the resurgence of easy listening, ‘and I guess we‘ne guilty ofthat as well, but although we laugh at that stuff. it also has a real atmosphere.’ Drummer Paul Deakin chips in with his own, even simpler angle ‘We‘re having fun by reflecting everything we listen to on the tour bus, from Frank Sinatra through to Raul's Latin and Cuban records, some of which are really camp.‘

On disc, though, it‘s only really Raul Malo and Trisha Yearwood's take on Frank and Nancy‘s ‘Something Stupid' (Yearwood is Reynolds‘s wife) and the version of ‘Blue Moon‘ (from the Apollo 13 movie soundtrack) which really reflect kitsch values. The rest are typically rocking country stompers or moody ballads, with a slice of fabulous Tex-Mex featuring the great Flaco Jimenez thrown in.

Their three previous albums have

established them as one of the hottest

acts around on the US scene, and have placed them left-field of the Nashville mainstream. Reynolds, Deakin and

Malo formed the band in Miami Beach,

which is not exactly a hotbed of country music, out ofa determination to play ‘cool country stuff' spiced with a return to the raw energy of early rock and roll, and provide a vehicle for the charismatic Malo‘s vocal talents and song-writing (guitarist Nick Kane completes the line—up. although a keyboard player is often added for live shows).

‘There wasn't a country music scene in Miami until we came along,‘ Deakin laughs, ‘and I think when we left we pretty much took it with us. i never thought we would get a gig, much less

:h $11?er ~~~reae \. ..

an ~'-*“\\Sk*s\‘

a record contract, it was really just done for the love of that music. An old manager of ours came up with the name, and I think we worked our way into it, rather than the other way around.

‘We don‘t plan to either fit or not fit

? into the mainstream, we try to stay as 3 true as we can to what we feel The

Mavericks are, or more than that, what the music is the music always comes first. i think we have a more traditional country feel than a lot of what you hear

on the radio in the US now - we’re a modem band, but our roots are very

firmly planted.‘ The band cite influences which range from Patsy Cline and Hank Williams

: through to Tom Petty and the now 9 sadly disbanded Jayhawks, and have an

The Mavericks: retro cool

unpredictable energy and playful diversity which is hardly standard issue on the generally conservative country scene. On stage, as they proved in their Scottish debut in Glasgow last year, they are simply dynamite.

The concert will also provide a first taste of major stage exposure for a fine band from an even more unlikely setting, Bellshill. The Radio Sweethearts, fronted by singer John Miller‘s expressive, emotionally committed vocals. play a raunchy, steeped-in-the-roots style of modem country which will fit perfectly with The Mavericks, and bring the band a deserved exposure in their own right. The Mavericks and The Radio Sweethearts play at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Tue 30.

Err:— All strung out

The acoustic guitar was the ubiquitous instrument of the 605’ folk song revival, and musicians of the calibre of Bert Jansch (who plays Glasgow and Edinburgh next week), Davey Graham and John Renbourne, spawned thousands of imitators. But the Celtic music explosion that started in the mid-70$ and is still expanding, requires more from the instrument and the players.

Heels and jigs do not fall easily on a guitar fretboard and many open and modal tunings are devised to bring the guitar in line with the other folk instruments tuned in fifths, like the fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki and cittern.

Ireland’s Artie McGlynn and Brittany’s Dan ar Braz are established masters of the style but at the forefront of the younger generation is Paisley-based Tony MacManus whose debut album on Greentrax ls reviewed

in this issue. Speaking to him as he enjoyed his

role as informal guitarist-in-residence

at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival, I wondered how he felt about

life as a full-time musician after three 3

years doing a maths degree at university. ‘Well, I love the fact that no two weeks are the same. And the travel. And that when you go to Asturias or Ireland or wherever, you get to meet and play with amazing musicians, especially Brittany. I’m

going back there soon to rehearse for '

a week and then tour with an irish/ Breton concert party that includes the great flute player Jean Michel Villon, and the Mollard brother. I love Breton music. It has such a different flavour. It’s minimalist folk music, much of it in a minor key. And it’s repetitive, but in a nice way.’

After a German trip with ex- Battlefieid Band songwriter and multi- instrumentalist Brian MacIIeill, he’s off to Ireland to record with star flute player Kevin Crawford and De Dannan’s Frankie Gavin, then a trip to the States as accompanist-in-

residence to Maciieili, Martin Hayes and Natalie MacMaster in their ScotSI Irish and Cape Breton ‘Celtic Fiddle Tourfl

But he’s also excited about new horizons on the guitar. ‘I’m taking delivery of a hand-made baritone

'Iony MacManus: strung up on the guitar

guitar, by Bill Kelday, out Campsie way - that’li have a wonderful, deep sound and I’m getting together a fretless electric guitar, just to see what I can do with it.’ (Norman Chalmers)

Tony MacManus plays Edinburgh Folk Club, Wed 31.

38 The List 26 Jan-8 Feb 1996