With their third album, these young country-rockers bid to strengthen their status as the new class act of mainstream country. The Mavericks, who have managed so far to avoid sacrificing integrity for sales, go for a classic, retro sound; on Music for All Occasions they try harder than ever to imbue each song with an instant patina of age. Everything is lit cool neon blue; what with the tinkly piano, weepy pedal-steel guitar and sedate oohs and doowahs in the background, we might almost be in Nashville, circa 1963.
The title, unfortunately, is a misnomer—almost half the songs jog along at a medium-tempo shuffle. Such single-mindedness might give the proceedings a classic honky-tonk feel; it also induces tedium long before the record’s over. Only two rockers break the sameness of mood: “Here Comes the Rain,” whose jangly 12-string guitars evoke those great mid-’60s progenitors of 12-string jangle the Searchers, and “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” which unleashes the Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jimenez. The closer, “Something Stupid” (yes, that one) is a downright mistake—a campy joke that falls flat. The song was never anything but a dog.
Lead singer Raul Malo’s tenor is one of the wonders of modern country, a swooping, goose-bumps-inducing voice, so it’s indeed a shame he and his bandmates didn’t come up with more for him to wrap those silver tonsils around. Live, the Mavericks never fail to rock out. One wishes they’d have tapped a little more of that abandon on this album. (MCA)