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After a five-year break, THE MAVERICKS, one of the country's most critically lauded groups of the '90s, have returned

When Mavericks frontman Raul Malo decided to ask his former bandmates to regroup, you might think he'd be afraid they'd say no.

"No!" laughs the soulful singer. "I was afraid they'd say yes!"

There's no turning back now. The Grammy-winning Mavericks have dusted off their signature sound and released a new album, simply titled The Mavericks. They also recently launched an extensive U.S. and overseas tour.

"I knew we'd do something again eventually," says Raul. "It was just a matter of timing."

Bass player Robert Reynolds agrees. "I've always been a believer that we would reunite at some point. Raul has a very special voice and we were kind of a unique band. We weren't ready to let that go."

After releasing five critically acclaimed albums and stockpiling several awards (including CMAs for Vocal Group of the Year in 1995 and 1996), The Mavericks called it quits in 1998, although their music stayed on the charts through late 1999.

"We never put a timetable on our break, though," confides Roberts. "We never really had a formal split. We were just the weird couple that walks away from each other and never breaks up."

The band members stayed busy with separate projects during their hiatus. Raul made a solo album, the Cubano-tinged Today, and joined an all-star Mexican American band to record Los Super Seven.

"I met Rick Trevino on that project," notes Raul, who ended up producing and largely co-writing Rick's just-released In My Dreams album.

"While working on Rick's record, I was writing a lot of songs," says Raul. "I realized I had a whole batch of songs that sounded like a Mavericks record. That's what prompted this whole reunion."

So earlier this year, Raul invited his bandmates Robert and drummer Paul Deakin, plus guitarist Eddie Perez, over to his Nashville home to hear some of the new songs.

"We sat down to many courses of great Cuban food," enthuses Robert. "It was a feast, chit-chat, cigars and martinis kind of night. Then Raul played us the demos that ended up on our record. It was really exciting and fun."

The Mavericks got right to work and realized they still gelled as a band. "This band is a little bit like a bicycle," says Robert. "You just get up and ride again."

"I was going to say we're older and wiser now," muses Raul. "But I'm not sure about the 'wiser' part."

Story by M.B. Roberts