I discovered The Mavericks via their 2003 self-titled album, The Mavericks. I was blown away by the songwriting: “I Want to Know,” “Shine Your Light,” “Would You Believe,” and many more. But I also fell in love with lead singer Raul Malo’s fabulous diversity of singing styles, sometimes echoing the clipped diction of Buck Owens or the emotional intensity of Roy Orbison or the country blues sadness of Patsy Cline. The band themselves play a lively mix of Tex-Mex country/rockabilly with flashes of Cuban and Cajun influences. This particular album emerges at an interesting juncture in their career, coming out three years after their initial break up and nine years before they would unite again. The song I’m focusing on here, “Touch a Lonely Heart,” is also from this period, actually appearing as the b-side to the first single from The Mavericks album, “I Want to Know.” I can’t believe something this good could be left off the album! Just listen to the initial roll out of the tune with its snappy electric lead guitar line, “Help Me Rhonda” pumping fairground organ, and irresistible melodic hook. Then Malo’s vocal slides in with a candy-coated smoothness that is utterly seductive. The sonic elements of the song seems so immediately familiar but this is no derivative sound alike tune. Instead The Mavericks wield the constituent elements with the mastery of a band that has played a thousand nights together. This is textbook should-be hit single songwriting and performance.
If you like what you hear here, you’re going to love the rest of the band’s catalogue. You can catch up on their early period hits with the cheekily-titled Super Colossal Smash Hits of the 90’s: The Best of The Mavericks from 1999 or dip in to any of their post-2013 albums and not go far wrong. Their most recent album is 2020’s fab Spanish-language En Espanol. You can read all about The Mavericks, their recordings and tour news on the band’s website here.