The Mavericks: In Time and En Fuego

Mavericks In Time cover

By Ryan Hilligoss, February 28, 2013

The Mavericks, In Time, Valory Music Co.

Rating: 4 out of 5 gold records on the wall

Like a lot of other music and bands that have become my favorites over time, I stumbled upon The Mavericks by happy accident. While driving around in 1999, I happened upon a review on NPR of a new tribute album coming out of country-alt-rock legend Gram Parsons entitled Return of the Grievous Angel which included covers from The Pretenders with Emmy Lou Harris, Gillian Welch, Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and The Mavericks, among others. I was stunned to hear The Mavericks bring The Flying Burrito Brothers song, Hot Burrito #1 to full, alt-country life with a blend of a steady rock drum beat, steel pedal guitar and the soaring vocals of lead singer Raul Malo. For my money there are a few singers in modern American music that have been pure, smooth and powerful such as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jackie Wilson, Trisha Yearwood, and you can add Raul Malo’s name to that impressive list. If you have any doubt, just listen to the below clips of him singing a fine cover version of Etta James’ At Last, Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone, or one of my favorite Springsteen covers, All That Heaven Will Allow. (Malo can also be seen singing I Told You So with Scotty Moore on guitar and DJ Fontana on drums by clicking this link.)

The Mavericks released their first album in 1991 during the height of the ‘Garth Brooks’ country sound and blazed their way through six albums with a fine amalgamation of sounds ranging from country, old school rock and roll, mariachi horns and accordion, up tempo rock, Latin based rhythms  and everything in between. The band broke up in 2003 but is back in style with their new release In Time. If you have ever wondered what Buck Owens and The Buckaroos would sound like backed by the surf rock group The Ventures playing guitar behind a ska beat, here it is in all it’s glory.

The lineup includes Malo, Paul Deakin on drums, Robert Reynolds on bass, Eddie Perez on guitar and Jerry Dale McFadden on accordion, organ, piano and arrangements, with various others helping out on strings, horns and additional percussion. All thirteen songs are original works written by Malo with some help from writing partners. The thirteen songs are drenched in Latin beats, showing their Miami roots as always, like samba and bossa nova, and include two versions of Come Unto Me, in Beatlesesque fashion, one sung in English and one in Spanish over the same backing tracks. The band rips through the entire album like they hadn’t been apart all these years, and they don’t miss a beat or leave a stone unturned.

Appropriately, the album begins with the ska beat opener of Back In Your Arms Again with the lyrics: Once I said I’d never want your love again/You showed up tonight and proved me wrong/ Things I said I’d never do since you and I were through/But here I am back in your arms again. It’s true they have been gone for a while, but now they’re back in their listeners and fans wide open armsNext up is Lies with a powerful ,rolling, tempo and full on Duane Eddy guitar sound supplied by Perez, and at the end, Malo asking the band to keep rolling as he repeats the last line ‘I believe in all your lies’ three times like he is just happy to be back in the studio with the band and doesn’t want the good times to end.

Come Unto Me is a funky mashup of styles of Ventures guitar sounds, calypso beat, and fluttering accordion threading through the love struck lyrics. Throughout the album, this listener hears influences abound that have fueled their bands highly distinct style throughout their career. Orbison’s Blue Bayou beat can be heard behind In Another’s Arms, a quick tempo runs through Fall Apart with Marty Robbins horns, All Over Again is a testament to the power and glory of Buck Owen’s Bakersfield sound, Forgive Me is drenched in Patsy Cline vocal stylings, and Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar work can be heard in the start to Dance In The Moonlight before the song takes off into an infectious samba beat. Through the entire album, Malo’s voice is as pure, powerful and sultry as ever. The man could sing the alphabet, Russian folk songs or David Foster Wallace’s 1,000 page Infinite Jest from start to finish and I would hang on every word and syllable.

But the highlights for me are That’s Not My Name and As Long As There’s Loving Tonight. In the former, Malo seems to be having playful fun with the Ting Tings song from 2008 when he sings: Lonely, Mr. Lonely/That’s what they’ll call me/That’s not my name. In Loving Tonight, it opens with a piano lead straight from Elvis Presley’s All Shook Up and rolls into a boogie woogie, up tempo number that could have been recorded at RCA’s Nashville studios in the 1950s replete with Chet Atkins playing a ‘galloping guitar’, Boots Randolph on the yakkety sax and the Jordanaires supplying the backing oohs and ahhs as Malo complains of his lover: ‘She’s always getting her way/With little or nothing to say/When I know she’s wrong, that’s alright/ As long as there’s loving tonight’. As Dewey Phillips used to say on Memphis radio, “That’ll get it man, that’ll flat get it.”

But, this is not simply a matter of a cover band paying homage to their influences worn on their sleeves. Like true artists, the band and singer are able to pay tribute to those who came before while finding their own voices and own styles, and The Mavericks create their own sound in buckets and spades.  Go out and get this album, and tell em’ Phillips sent ya’.


And if someday, you just have one of those days and need to get away for a few minutes, take a listen to the superlative Dream River from The Mavericks album, Trampoline. Close your eyes, listen and float away down the Dream River. ‘Don’t wake because I don’t mind.’

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue: Goodbye Dekalb Caribou

Caribou Coffee cup high atop 'Mount Dekalb' with Caribou location in background

Caribou Coffee cup high atop ‘Mount Dekalb’ with Dekalb, Illinois Caribou location in background

By Ryan Hilligoss, February 24, 2013

In James McMurtry‘s song Charlemagne’s Home Town, he writes of one character, “I measure out my life in coffee grounds.” Coffee lovers around the world can attest to the truth of that declaration. But for me, over the last roughly ten years, I have measured out my life in cups of Caribou coffee. More specifically, the Caribou Coffee in Dekalb, Illinois. Whatever  I needed to get through the day: one in the morning, one in the afternoon and maybe one at night. Ok, maybe that is a stretch, but I frequented the location several times a week, mainly for the coffee but also because of the friendliness of the staff. But, that all came to an end on Sunday February 23, 2013 when the location closed their doors to business for the final time. Egads, my nervous system and kidneys, riding a caffeine induced adrenaline rush, may see this as a good thing, but my heart, mind and memory do not.

Thanks everyone for many years of wonderful. Counter sign at Caribou

Thanks everyone for many years of wonderful. Counter sign at Caribou

Caribou Coffee was my first introduction to decent, tasteful coffee. I grew up in the southwestern part of Illinois, in what many call the metro east area of St.Louis. I grew up watching my dad and grandparents drink coffee on a daily basis, but I never touched it until I was eighteen and working as an intern for the Illinois Department of Education in Springfield. After suffering through countless, mind numbing meetings in which I fought to keep my eyelids open, I had my first cup, straight from the steaming pot in the corner of a drab, soul crushing state government office. From there I progressed to much more sophisticated sources to fuel my desire, high falutin’ places like Moto Mart, QuickTrip and McDonalds. To the uninitiated sap I was, it tasted like coffee straight from the Kona Coast of Hawaii. Little did I know.

Fast forward a few years when I had moved to the Chicago area, and lo and behold, I came across actual coffee houses which appeared on almost every street corner in some places and had more to offer than a smoking, stale glass pot of warmed over motor oil derivative. These places actually had full menus of every kind of coffee based drinks you could ever imagine. Cappucino, lattes and teas abounded with flavored shots, soy milk, and decaf instead of regular. Wow!!!! For a country boy from the land of corn fields, I felt I had stumbled into coffee paradise.

I first came to the Dekalb Caribou location in 2003 after my in-laws had moved to the area from Geneva. After driving around town a little to see what the area had to offer, my coffee nose steered me to the inviting location at 2385 Sycamore Road. The warm interior decor of cabin-like wood floors and walls and the glowing fireplace next to the comfy couches called to me like Greek Sirens of old. After moving to the area with my wife and kids in 2006, Caribou became my safe haven from the noisy outside world where I could enjoy a coffee and do some reading without small children jumping on my back and cracking two or three ribs. Caribou also became my home away from home and my second office. Since I work virtually, meaning I do not have to be in a physical office for most of the time, I could work from home but found it distracting and unproductive for me most of the time. Working from my second office seemed to focus my attention more, at least for a few hours until the guilt of hogging seating and wi-fi got to my conscience and I left for a body shop or tow yard. The Dekalb Caribou was a place I took my kids, Graham and Rory, often times to get them out of the house for a while to allow mom some much-needed quiet time and rest. I also often took my son there to sit quietly and do some reading, he reading his first chapter books and assignments from school, me reading my beloved newspapers or magazines. He and I each reading alone, but together at the same time and sharing thoughts and funny paragraphs together.

Graham and Rory Hilligoss, February 23, 2013, Dekalb, Il

Graham and Rory Hilligoss, February 23, 2013, Dekalb, Il

In today’s America, we are inundated with choices of every kind regarding restaurants, bars, houses, neighborhoods, tooth brushes of every color and shape, manual or battery operated, doctors, television and music channels, and on and on ad nauseam. Given the amount of options we have at our disposal, it is quite telling to notice the places we choose to spend our time and where we spend our money. Customers who frequent a specific business location typically do it for a reason: ease of parking or drive-thru, location, service, product, value, etc. Caribou earned my loyalty due to the high quality of their product, menu selections, seating comfort, wi-fi access, but more importantly, they earned my loyalty due to the high level of service and friendliness of the staff. Many of their staff managers and employees have moved onto other locations which belies the quality of their employees. And some of their faces and names have slipped my somewhat aging mind, but the ones I know and saw on a frequent basis are ones I can call friends of mine because they weren’t just doing their jobs of providing coffee and I wasn’t just a nameless schlub who came in the door. They knew my name and they knew my kids names and they asked about my job and my family; they took an interest in me as a person, not just as a customer, and they placed value on knowing their clientele and treating them with respect and appreciation. So thank you to Jackie, Laura, Jared, Jenny, Xavier, Clayton, Andrew, Mathew, Celine, Marissa, and a lot of others. To paraphrase a Bob Dylan song he wrote for his hero Woody Guthrie, “Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men and women I have known from Caribou, that come with the dust and are gone with the wind.”

The 'Bou Crew

The ‘Bou Crew. Photo courtesy of Jared Moore

Another Bob Dylan song I have been thinking of a lot this week once I heard the news of the store’s closing is It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. Recorded in 1965 and released on his classic album, Bringing It All Back Home, it can be interpreted many ways, but one is that it was his kiss off to his prior self and his folk music fans who booed him when he played electric instruments for the first time at the Newport Folk Festival. Up until that time, Dylan had only played acoustic guitar along with his harmonica and played mostly folk music and protest songs, in the vein of Woody Guthrie. Dylan chose the Newport Festival to announce to the world that he was moving on to a new style of music and playing. The fans did not like the news and Dylan did not appreciate the response and chose to play It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue as his last acoustic performance that day, and the lyrics tell the tale of his rebirth:

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you
Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

My first stop into Caribou was ten years ago and since then a lot of changes have come and gone in my personal life, in the country and around the world. Family members have passed away, friends and coworkers have moved on to other jobs and other lives, and we  have two kids now who are now eight and six years old. Nothing stays the same forever and people, places and things come and go ‘like the ticking of the clock on the wall.’ But in the end, what remains are the moments of kindness and decency displayed over time, and I was fortunate to experience many as a customer of my favorite coffee-house. As Caribou’s motto says, Life is short, stay awake for it. God bless you staff of the Dekalb Caribou Coffee.

Ryan Hilligoss, Dekalb, Illinois

Ryan Hilligoss, Dekalb, Illinois