Your Country's Right Here: Raul Malo and the Mavericks Saddle up

Raul Malo, inventor the alt-country format, has a holiday present for all of the fans that still mourn the demise of the Mavericks”the band will again play and record together.

“We are going to go back and put the Mavericks back together, dust the cobwebs off, go tour in the summer and we are going to make a new record,” said Malo, who has been recording and touring as a solo artist since  the Mavericks stopped performing together in 2003. [About the long break, he offered,] “I would say that honestly it wasn’t any one thing in particular. It was almost like a perfect storm of these different opportunities.”

Those opportunities have actually brought Malo home in a way. After playing in small bands when he was a teen and young adult, Malo teamed with his high school friend Robert Reynolds to form the Mavericks. The two used the music of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and other traditional country artists as the foundation for their own contemporary music.

After signing with a major label and winning a GRAMMY and two Country Music Association Awards, Malo began to work even more influences”especially Latin, rock, and jazzformats”into the music he wrote. When fan excitement for the Mavericks lagged, Malo continued on as a solo musician.

“I never thought that the Mavericks would get back together,” he said.  “I thought it was done, and I thought that was fine. That is part of life. Move on. I don’t want to go out and just play any and just run the band into the ground. I didn’t want to start to tour for the sake of the tour. That wasn’t appealing to me. I felt it was more special to me and if the [fan interest] wasn’t there, there was nothing we could do about it.”


Sound And Vision: Top 40 Show Tunes — Seven Music Icons Whose Songs Should Rock Broadway

Though I’ll probably never be a huge fan of the Broadway musical, occasionally, they rock. Such has been the case for Great White Way song-and-dance productions based on the music of the Who, Bee Gees, ABBA, Queen, Billy Joel, Dolly Parton, Green Day and Elton John (twice). But poor Paul Simon. He flopped hard”and embarrassingly”with The Capeman in 1998. The moral of this particular west side story? When launching expensive stage musicals, it pays creative and/or commercial dividends for rock and pop stars to fall back on their classics”or in the case of John’s Aida, a classic opera”for inspiration.

And then there’s U2. The normal rules of art and commerce have never applied to Ireland’s greatest musical export. Although Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, with original music and lyrics by U2 frontman Bono and guitarist The Edge, has been dogged by bad buzz, negative reviews (for the staging, if not the music) and behind-the-scenes snafus, it’s been a box-office success since debuting in previews last November, more than six months in advance of its official June 14 opening.

Whether their Spidey show tunes will spin their web for months or years remains to be seen, but it’s hard not to wish that Bono and The Edge had adapted their band’s enduring catalog for a musical instead. If they had to take Manhattan, why not do it using songs we know and love from The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, two of its best and most successful albums, as inspiration rather than a superhero human-arachnid mutation (who’ll be returning to the big screen shortly in the form of The Social Network‘s Andrew Garfield)?

Maybe someday. In the meantime, here are some other iconic artists who ought to be waiting in the wings with their own spotlight musical. (Sorry, no Beatles”I’ve heard enough bad covers of the Fab Four’s catalog, including those from the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to last several lifetimes!)

David Bowie: Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been waiting so long for new music from Bowie. Or that my favorite Bowie song inspired the name of this very column. But more likely, it’s all about Space Oddity, a  rock & roll classic which tells a story that conceivably could be stretched out into a two-hour musical format and rounded out with many other Bowie hits. His ’70s output was more or less created to be performed onstage, and his theatrical music and visual lyrics could so easily translate to the rock-opera format. Meanwhile, Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke”parts Bowie played to perfection on record and in concert”are star-making roles if ever there were four of them.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David: “Walk on By.” “Message to Michael.” “Wishin’ and Hopin’.” “I Say a Little Prayer.” “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” Put these Bacharach/David compositions together”adding “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and many more”and what have you got? A Broadway miracle that’ll have more fans singing along than any musical since Mamma Mia!.

Loretta Lynn: It’s a mystery why no one has thought to revive Coal Miner’s Daughter on Broadway. The 1980 film has got the music, the story and the Oscar pedigree. But why stop with Loretta Lynn when you can add the music of Tammy Wynette and Patsy Cline and stage Honky Tonk Angels, all about lives and loves in a ten-cent town?

Johnny Cash: No need to revisit Walk the Line just yet. The hero of Ring of Fire (which I always thought would have been a better title for the film since it was co-written by June Carter Cash about her and Johnny, while Cash’s first wife inspired him to write “I Walk the Line”) could be a man in black by another name. Lyrically, the best of Johnny Cash already hits on all the stages of an extraordinary life, from outcast (“A Boy Named Sue,” which was actually written by Shel Silverstein and not Cash) to outlaw (“Folsom Prison Blues”) to would-be saint (“Walk the Line”) to corpse (“Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”).

The Eagles: Picture this: Hotel California, featuring the Eagles signature title song plus “Desperado,” “Lying Eyes,” “Take It to the Limit,” “New Kid in Town” and all of those other ’70s country-rock classics. If there’s gonna be a heartache tonight (or any other night), I can’t think of a better musical cure.

Fleetwood Mac: Because the band deserves so much better than Glee‘s very special “Rumours” episode, which, criminally, left out “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and “Gold Dust Woman.”

Eminem: Speaking of outlaws, it’s probably just a matter of time before the ’80s musical outlaw movement known as rap invades Broadway just as it did Middle America in the ’90s. I can’t think of a rapping storyteller whose songs are more deserving of the full-on stage treatment than the guy who brought us “Stan,” “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” and “Love the Way You Lie.” If 8 Mile could win an Oscar, its Tony Award possibilities as a Broadway musical are probably close to endless.

Whose music would you like to experience on Broadway?

Your Country's Right Here: Mandy Barnett Offers "Sweet Dreams" To Patsy Cline Fans

Mandy Barnett has an old soul.

How else to explain her devotion to great vocalists ranging from Patsy Cline to Linda Ronstadt and Connie Francis? And how else would she be able to masterfully record some of the best-loved songs of Patsy Cline while adding a few subtle twists to make them her own?

“I am not a writer. I’m a vocalist and an interpreter of classics,” said Barnett by telephone from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville just before she was scheduled to perform. “Whether it’s the ’40s, ’50s or ’60s, I’m really drawn to the classics in each genre.”

She does them proud, too, as evidenced by the critical and popular thumbs up reviews she has received for her albums and concertsplus her theatrical role in Always….Patsy Cline. It was her role in the two-woman show that tells the story of Cline and her devoted fan Louise Seger that prompted fans to ask her to record some of Cline’s classics.

Barnett’s new twelve-song album Sweet Dreams, released May 24, includes many of the songs Cline made popular plus a few other favorites including the Irving Berlin standards “Always” and “Strange.”

Reinterpreting and recording such powerhouse songs is no easy task when you consider that most of the songs are ingrained in popular culture.

“We were trying to figure out how to breathe life into these songs,” said Barnett of the recording session. “It’s tough when you have someone like her that sings and interprets songs so beautifully. You want what you to do pay tribute to her but stand on its own.”

Although some classic Cline songs such as “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Fall to Pieces” were recorded with the standard arrangements, Barnett is especially proud of other songs such as “Sweet Dreams” where tweaks made the songs more her own.

She credits producer Steve Gibson with working closely with her and the musicians to carefully polish the songs.

“He has been a very successful studio musician for many years now, and he’s very respectful of the music,” she said. “He brought a lot of great musicians to the table. I thought we were all really on the same page as far as the material. This was a very pleasurable record to make. It makes a big difference when you can record together [in the studio]. That really makes the most of it.”

Of course, starting with some of the finest songs in the country catalog gave Barnett and the whole team a true advantage, she said.

“The good thing is that these are all really good songs, very well written,” she said. “When you have that, you can do anything. It makes it so easy when the quality is so high.”

Find out more about Barnett and the new album Sweet Dreams on the Ryman Web site.

The theatrical production Always…Patsy Cline will run Fridays, Saturday and Sundays from June 17 until July 24 at the Ryman Auditorium. For information, check here.