The Mavericks

Live in Austin, Texas [DVD]

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The DVD of this June 2, 2004, Austin show is over twice the length of the CD equivalent, but it's not just quantity that makes it an important item in the Mavericks' catalog. Eight extra tracks add depth and breadth to the band's already eclectic mix of Americana, Cuban, Tex-Mex, classic honky-tonk, and bluesy '50s-styled rock & roll. Nine additional musicians, including a terrific four-piece horn section and two keyboardists, bolster but never overwhelm the quartet. Guitarist/songwriter/frontman Raul Malo is not surprisingly the star of the show, with lead guitarist Eddie Perez the only other bandmember to attract substantial camera time. Bassist Robert Reynolds and especially drummer/vibraphone player Paul Deakin stay in the background, vying for attention with the sidemen but doing their jobs without fanfare. The group isn't especially active on-stage, playing the tunes with little movement, yet the camera work is uniformly excellent without being distracting. The expanded 5.1 mix also isn't particularly startling, but the sound is clearly reproduced from the front three speakers, with the rear ones generally carrying crowd reaction. The band is firing on all cylinders for the duration of this two-hour performance in front of adoring fans. If there are any overdubs they are hard to find, as the musicians tear through this obviously well-rehearsed set with energy, intensity, and a genuine love of playing. Malo is in great voice, especially when he breaks out a terrific version of Elvis Presley's "Love Me," one of the songs not included on the CD. There are six tunes from the band's most recent eponymously titled 2003 album, but that leaves plenty of room for catalog items, covers (Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down," Bruce Springsteen's "All That Heaven Will Allow," and the standard "Besame Mucho" played solo acoustic by Malo are not included on the CD version), and extended performances of hits, such as the rousing show-closer, "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down." A half-hour documentary on the band's history, including interviews with the group, is the icing on the cake for this essential addition to any Mavericks fan's collection and a logical place for newcomers to get acquainted with the group's diverse sound.

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