On paper, the Mavericks and Junior Brown are “country” acts, though the band’s rock leanings are pronounced and Brown bears virtually no resemblance to what contemporary country radio is playing. Still, they’ve found a compatible audience, the enthusiastic Los Angeles chapter of which filled the House of Blues on Thursday night. Brown and the Mavericks share a vengeful eclecticism — Brown ended his show-opening set with a surf medley of “Pipeline,””Walk, Don’t Run” and “Secret Agent Man,” and the last number of the Mavericks’ two-hour music festival was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
“We can do anything we want,” noted the Mavericks’ lead singer, Raul Malo, early in the set. “We’ve already got your money.” Their set included snatches of Eddie Fisher’s hit “Oh, My Papa” and Dean Martin’s “Memories Are Made of This,” two well-chosen Elvis Presley numbers (“Love Me” and “Return to Sender”) and the far-from-cliched medley of “Jambalaya,””Give Peace a Chance” and Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up.”
More notable than the band’s eclecticism is the fact that Malo and company are able to handle the wide range of material with feeling that’s surprisingly close to the originals, packing the off-the-wall selections around the group’s own signatures — in particular the operatic, yearning “I Should Have Been True.”
And it’s not just Malo — they’re a terrific band instrumentally, as well.
The Mavericks, a Miami band fronted by a Cuban-American with a soaring voice that’s often compared to that of Roy Orbison, owes more to Bruce Springsteen (whose “All That Heaven Can Allow” they perform) than to Ferlin Huskey, or even to the more contemporary likes of Randy Travis, Alan Jackson or Brooks & Dunn.
With the backing of MCA Nashville, however, they’re now highly successful on country radio.
As for Junior Brown, the Texas singer-guitarist, is too country for the airwaves: his deep voice sounds like that of Ernest Tubb or Dick Curless, and his guitar playing sounds as though someone dumped LSD into the Bakersfield water supply.
Brown is finding his audience among the hipper rock fans.
More of a novelty than anything else, Brown pumps out bare-bones ’50s-styled country songs (often his own) interrupted by flurries of notes and slurs from his “guit-steel,” a laptop instrument with both regular and steel guitars.