Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Cuban Cowboy Music?

Throughout my high school years in Miami, among the many outlets for entertainment we had were the large parties my particular school, Belen Jesuit Prep, hosted. What made these parties different was the fact that we always had a live band perform. The gold standard of party bands in Miami at the time was a band that was alternately called The Boys/The Tomboys/The Basics. The two front men were Tommy Anthony (guitar & vocals) and Raul Malo (bass and vocals). They played mostly cover tunes but they always delivered a lot of energy and by the end of the night all of the teenagers were sweating from dancing all night in the School's large center courtyard. In fact, I remember before that particular building was ready, many of the dances were held on the second floor of the Coral Gables Elks Club. You could feel the wood floor sway when they played a tune like The Romantics "What I Like About You" or Robert Palmer's "Bad Case of Loving You".

Like all good things the band's days came to an end. But the Miami-born son of Cuban exiles, Raul Malo, wasn't done yet. He formed a new band and chose country music as his canvas. The band is called the Mavericks and in 1994 they were nominated for an American Music Award for Favorite Country New Artist along with Faith Hill and the eventual winner, Tim McGraw. That's pretty heady company in the country music scene.

Raul's smooth vocals and experimental style make the Mavericks sound very unique. The 1992 album entitled From Hell to Paradise is excellent. The title track is actually about (you guessed it) Cuba. One memorable line is "This 90-mile trip has taken 30 years to make." The Mavericks profile rose even further in 1995 with their cover of "Blue Moon" that appeared in the Apollo 13 soundtrack.

Malo began blending sounds and later Mavericks work is very eclectic. Malo has also gone out on his own and recorded solo work.

For you reading pleasure, the full lyrics of "From Hell to Paradise":

For thirty years they sang the
song of promised victory
But who they've fought and who has won
Didn't matter much to me
I see them driving down the streets
In their fancy shiny cars
Crowds of people to their feet
Their faces full of scars

No pleasantries, no luxuries
No little children's milk
While minister's wives spent
all their lives
In China's finest silk
My back's been broken many times
But my spirit lingers on
The day it comes my way on
freedom's ship
I will be gone

From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price
From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price

This ninety mile trip
has taken thirty years to make
They tried to keep
forever what was never theirs to take
I cursed and scratched the devil's hand
As he stood in front of me
One last drag from his big cigar
And he finally set me free

From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price
From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price
From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price
From hell to paradise
I'll always pay the price

Con ojos tiernos algun dia te mirare
Con brases abiertos algun dia abrasare
Hay mi Havana cuando pueda regresare

With tender eyes someday I'll look at you
With open arms someday I'll embrace you
My old Havana someday I will return

Lyrics courtesy of

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