Look, I get it—there’s still about three weeks until Thanksgiving, so you might be wondering why Christmas albums are already popping up, often full of covers of traditional Christmas songs that you’ve heard one way or another year after year. Thankfully, The Mavericks’ Hey! Merry Christmas! (Mono Mundo Recordings) delivers eight Christmas originals, with two covers thrown in for good measure. It features The Mavericks’ line up we’ve known since 2012: Raul Malo (vocals, guitar), Paul Deakin (drums, percussion), Eddie Perez (guitars, vocals), and Jerry Dale McFadden (keyboards, vocals), as well as The Fantastic Five of Max Abrams (sax), Julio Diaz (trumpet), Ed Friedland (bass), Michael Guerra (accordion/percussion), and Lorenzo Molina Ruiz (trumpet).
Most of the songs on this album are lively, joyful tunes aiming to spread the holiday cheer. Lead off track “Christmas Time Is (Coming ‘Round Again)” and “Santa Does” start the album off at a rollicking pace with all the Christmas bells and whistles, as well as some tasteful sax solos. The title track also brings some Christmas rockabilly, with some walking basslines by Friedland and a classic boogie piano solo by McFadden. There are some slower numbers too, such as “I Have Wanted You (For Christmas),” “Christmas For Me (Is You),” and “Christmas Without You.” “I Have Wanted You (For Christmas)” features some stellar lead lines by Perez, while “Christmas Without You” may appeal to those who are feeling a little blue this holiday season, evoking a sense of longing and regret.
Even if this isn’t strictly an all original Christmas album, The Mavericks stamp their signature sound on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Happy Holidays,” and both echo the ‘50s style rock and balladry that The Mavericks are known for. Throughout it all, the highlight is Malo’s signature vocals, which still echoes a mixture of cool Presley inflections and sweet Orbison crooning.
While Hey! Merry Christmas! is mostly comprised of new tunes, The Mavericks have a knack of creating songs that immediately sound timeless and retain a classic feel. You could easily present this album to a group of people and I’d bet that some of them would think that they’ve heard these songs once before (full disclosure—I went through the tracks and thought this of at least one track before reading the album credits). Consider giving this as an early Christmas present by ordering their new album here, and catch their latest tour dates here. See their 2-song release from last year, here: REVIEW: The Mavericks “Christmas Time is (Comin’ Round Again) Provides Escape Hatch