THE POST-CRESCENT | by Jim Lundstrom October 26, 2004

Musician going to do country thing at Tom's

Dave Gonzalez will be wearing his country hat when he returns to Tom's Garage Thursday night.

The frontman for The Paladins, the rockabilly/blues trio that played Tom's in April, is appearing with his other band, the Hacienda Brothers, which also features Chris Gaffney, the accordion-playing member of Dave Alvin's The Guilty Men.

"This is a lot different from The Paladins," Gonzalez said. "This is something I've wanted to do for a long time. We did have a few country tunes on our records, but I've written a lot of things that don't necessarily fit with the other band. I was always trying to work more country into the other band but was not able to pull it off."

Gonzalez finally realized he needed to branch off with a different-sounding band.

"As soon as I found these guys, my songwriting just completely opened up because I no longer have any limitations," he said.

Gonzalez said he and Gaffney have known each other since the 1980s.

"I've been a big fan of his," he said. "He's a great songwriter and a tremendous singer. I was always kind of afraid, even with my solo stuff, of being able to pull off vocally things I write. When I finally hooked up with Chris Gaffney, there was no problem any more. We think a lot alike when we write.

"I don't mind stepping back, singing a little harmony, singing a few tunes here and there."

Steel player David Berzansky, bass player Hank Gallup and drummer Dale Daniel round out the Hacienda Brothers.

"We've been together more than a year," Gonzalez said. "Last October we just said, this is it. We've got the A-team."

The band put together a five-song demo for its appearance at the 2004 South by Southwest appearance, the annual spring gathering around music and film in Austin, Texas.

"That got a real good response," Gonzalez said. "They picked one of those songs for the South by Southwest Web site."

A full-length record was to follow, but it took longer than anyone anticipated.

"It's kind of like the band that cried wolf," Gonzalez said. "We tell everybody we have this record coming out and it never comes out. But it's done now. We have a release date of late January. A goal of ours is to have it out on the street and some ink on it before South by Southwest rolls around (in late March)."

They signed soul songwriter/producer Dan Penn, who wrote and produced songs for the Box Tops ("The Letter," "Cry Like A Baby") and wrote a number of soul classics such as "Do Right Woman" (for Aretha Franklin), "Dark End of the Street" and "I'm Your Puppet."

Penn, based in Nashville, said the band could come to Nashville to record the album but said he preferred to come to them in Tucson, Ariz.

"He told us, 'You guys got something going on that I want to be a part of," Gonzalez said. "He described our sound as 'Western soul.' We said, 'Thanks, bro. We didn't know what to call it.'"

Gonzalez said everyone was relieved Penn wanted to record in Tucson.

"Gaff is from Tucson and my dad's from there, so I spent a lot of time in Tucson as a kid," he said. "We played all our first gigs there and we were totally inspired by being there."

Gonzalez said the place definitely influenced the music.

"Our whole trip is the southwestern thing," he said. "Every time we wanted to work on the record, we have to drive back out there, through the desert, chill out there a few days and focus."