Speak softly and carry conviction


AS THEIR name suggests, The Mavericks are not your common or garden country band, but neither are they completely outside of the law. Theirs is not a raucous, shoot 'em up style of rebellion, but a more subtle, persuasive style which eschews the usual C&W cliches in favour of a richer, more universal musical heritage.

The Mavericks came to Nashville via the punk clubs" of Miami, where they confounded New Wavers and rednecks alike with their yearning, twanging, easy listening tunes.

They used country as the format, but looked towards the great popular songs of the cage to find the substance. The result is a sound which soothes the fevered brow while firing up the burning heart at the same time.

At the Olympia last night, The Mavericks set the tone with songs from their current album, Music For All Occasions, the tunes echoing with ghosts of the past and resonating with shades of the present.

The restraint and reticence of the music was almost overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the audience, but The Mavericks held their ground, speaking softly, and carrying it off with conviction.

Vocalist Raoul Malo is the soul of The Mavericks, and his voice turned the venue into a vast and lonely prairie as he sang an achingly sad ballad entitled Missing You.

Guitarist Nick Kane stroked his Gibson Les Paul with loving care, teasing out some beautiful licks to back up Malo's vocals. Bassist Robert Reynolds, husband of country superstar Trisha Yearwood, switched from electric to acoustic bass with ease, trundling out some trenchant lines while Paul Deakin beat out those distant, desolate drums. The keyboards trickled down the trail like a fresh spring from a mountainside.

It was not all aching ballads and Texan torch songs, however, as the band put on its rockin' shoes for a rambunctious rendition of Jamhalaya. But the really serious moonlight stuff came with a version of Blue Moon, which showcased the howling passion of Malo's vocals. This same song was performed at the same venue a number of years ago by Cowboy Junkies, but this time around the shivers ran all the way to the dusty horizon.

The Mavericks may not be rock'n'roll nor even country, but their music certainly has a sense of occasion.