From beginning to end of the Mavericks' reunion album "In Time," the genre-busting band embodies the very best of the melting-pot experience that's a fundamental component of the American character. Singer-songwriter Raul Malo and his Nashville-based compatriots draw freely, and joyously, from regional cultures spanning North and South America on a collection that will be hard to top as the year's most scintillating pop music outing.
The party begins in the opening track, "Back in Your Arms Again." A fat, twangy chord from an echo-drenched country guitar shares space with a lilting strummed Hawaiian uke, which are quickly joined by a peppery Tex-Mex keyboard and timbales that ride along as propulsive rhythm section jumps in. Then Malo's soaring tenor arrives, bringing palpable romanticism to a tale about the sweetness of reunion that applies equally to the song's romance-minded protagonist as his band's own return to the spotlight.
The spirit of inclusiveness never lets up, infusing the pedal-to-the-metal punch of "Lies," the mariachi-spiked breakup celebration in "Fall Apart" and the Tex-Mex fiesta of "All Over Again." And if there isn't a pop vocal Grammy Award next year for Malo's stunning display on the eight-minute operatic Latin-pop-gospel epic "(Call Me) When You Get to Heaven," awards overseers ought to just pack it in and say "Adios."
Malo, whose Cuban heritage comes out in the dance-mindedness of nearly every track, also co-produced the album with Niko Bolas, and they've captured a sound as tangibly uplifting as pop music gets. The Mavericks are back and indeed, just in time.
(Valory Music Co.)
Four stars (out of four)