May 11, 1998 12:00 PM


Album of the week

Thanks to the dramatic vocal style of lead singer Raul Malo, who sounds like a cross between Roy Or-bison and Marty Robbins, and to his band’s tight, country-swing sound, the Mavericks have scored a moderate number of hits and an immoderate number of awards, including the Country Music Association’s Vocal Group of the Year honors two years running (1995 and 1996). With this ambitious, wildly diverse album, Malo just might be bucking for another. Here he leads his four-member core group (including bassist Robert Reynolds, the husband of country star Trisha Year-wood), as well as a small army of sidemen. Malo, a 32-year-old Miamian who also serves as the group’s guitarist, songwriter, coproducer and co-arranger, sits in on drums and piano, plucks a six-string bass and even plays an instrument that might make some Grand Ole Opry stalwarts head for the exits—an electric sitar. Tackling gospel, rock, honky-tonk and even tunes from the ’20s, Malo seems intent on expanding his, and country music’s, reach. Thanks to his gorgeous vocals and his band’s virtuoso playing, most listeners will be happy for the stretch. Only Nashville diehards may miss the one quality this polished CD lacks: grand ole country grit.

Bottom Line: A smooth ride beyond country’s boundaries

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