The Mavericks' reputation as a live act eventually reached Nashville, and the band was signed by MCA. The promising but unfocused "From Hell to Paradise" was a commercial failure, but it got some critical attention, thanks in part to four socially themed songs, including the Castro-bashing title track and the anthemic "Children."
"It really set a standard because it was so left of center that we pretty much could do whatever the hell we wanted after that," says Malo. "We established that we weren't gonna go the normal route. What I'm sayin' is, somebody hears it and goes, 'God, this thing sucks.' Well, you know, it's the Mavericks, they're kinda crazy anyway."
The Mavericks' goal then was to establish their true nature as a honky-tonk band. MCA's Brown teamed them with producer Don Cook to help bring out their accessible side.
The result was "What a Crying Shame," which came out in February, 1994. Critics swooned, but so did sales, as country radio was indifferent again.
The label's determined efforts finally got the band airplay, and things began to snowball.
While they won't admit feeling too secure about things yet, the Mavericks probably won't need to second-guess themselves again, the way they did a while back when they were booked for five arena dates opening for Alan Jackson. Over-thinking, they tried to calculate a crowd-pleasing selection of songs, but they ended up scrapping it on stage.
"Raul kind of did it with a few odd song calls that were complete departures from the set list--he even surprised us," recalls Reynolds. "We'd all be going, 'I hope he does one that we remember.'
"The point was that we left the thinking and went to the gut and just played music. Forgot about business. It made for a great buzz. We went home goin', 'All right, that's what we do, that's when we're the Mavericks.' "
* \o7 The Mavericks play Thursday at the House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., 9 p.m. Sold out. (213) 650-1451. Also next Sunday at the Coach House, 10475 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego, 8 p.m. $23.50. (619) 563-0060. Feb. 27 at the Galaxy Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, 8 p.m. Sold out. (714) 957-0600. Feb. 28 at the Ventura Theatre, 26 S. Chestnut Ave., Ventura, 8 p.m. $18.50. (805) 648-1888. \f7