Most complete-album shows are celebrations of commonly agreed-on landmarks, victory laps for established classics that send audiences home humming their music collections. But Mavericks, the first album by Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, is more like a buried treasure.
But at World Cafe Live on Thursday night, the founding members of North Carolina power-pop quartet the dB's - whose 2012 Falling Off the Sky was the original lineup's first album in 30 years - weren't commemorating a neat anniversary or hawking a "deluxe" reissue. They were playing Mavericks, released in 1991, a not-especially-promotable 22 years ago. Even its 2007 reissue is out of print.
But to the midsized crowd of fans who converged on the World Cafe - and, clasping CD booklets and LPs, swarmed the merch table after the show - Mavericks is not just an album; it's a totem. And Holsapple and Stamey's performance bore that out. With guitarist Dave Schramm, a veteran of the original sessions, plus keyboard and cello players, the duo worked their way through Mavericks' 12 tracks mostly in order. Although Stamey claimed the album was "on shuffle in our heads," the only alteration they made was moving the leadoff single, "Angels," from first to last.
The duo opened with the Everly Brothers' "Lord of the Manor," tipping their hat to their biggest influence. (After the show, Stamey sold dog-eared copies of an unreleased single featuring the Everlys' "Let It Be Me.") As they sang "Christmas Time" - one of only three dB's songs in the hourlong set - their voices joined in almost indistinguishable unison and then spread in opposite directions, the harmonies opening up like a blossoming flower.
Mavericks itself took them in many directions. "Close Your Eyes" had the winding melody of a Cole Porter song, while the stately pace and eerie chords evoked an Old World murder ballad.
In their between-song recollections, Holsapple and Stamey revealed that Mavericks' love songs were written with their future wives in mind, which places the album at a professional and personal crossroads. Holsapple wryly noted that "She Was the One" inadvertently previewed his divorce from the woman he had yet to marry, but then many milestones become apparent as such only in retrospect - something you could say for Mavericks as well.