THE TAMPA TRIBUNE | by Curtis Ross, May 13, 2005

Hacienda Brothers at Home with Classic Country

Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez called on an architect of Southern soul to construct their debut CD as country duo The Hacienda Brothers.

Dan Penn, who wrote or co-wrote such great tunes as "At the Dark End of the Street," "I'm Your Puppet" and "Cry Like a Baby," was behind the boards for this year's eponymous disc featuring Gaffney, of Cold Hard Truth and Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men, and Gonzalez, of The Paladins.

"To have Chris sing and Dan produce," Gonzalez writes in an e-mail, "to work with them, write with them...[is] a dream come true."

Gonzalez first met Penn at a music festival in Holland, where they bonded as much over their shared love of classic cars as they did over music.

Gonzalez says he'd kept in touch with Penn, even visiting him in Nashville, Tenn. But the guitarist had to be coaxed into asking Penn to check out he music he was making with Gaffney.

"Originally I wasn't sure I should" contact Penn, Gonzalez writes, "but then I just knew he'd like the songs and especially dig Gaff's soulful voice."

The result is "The Hacienda Brothers," a hard-country record with a big dose of Southern soul - two styles that go together like fried catfish and sweet tea.

Gonzalez even got to write with Penn, resulting in "Lookin' for Loneliness." Other highlights include the Willie Nelson-inspired "Seven Little Numbers," the epic instrumental "Saguaro" and a fine version of Mel Tillis' "Mental Revenge."

Gaffney's commanding vocals take center stage, with Gonzalez's excellent guitar lending fine support. But like contacting Penn, it took some prodding to get the Hacienda duo together. Gaffney and Gonzalez were friends and fellow musicians in the West Coast roots-music scene, Gonzalez writes.

A mutual friend, concert promote Jeb Schoonover, sensed chemistry and urged the two to get together. "I always wanted to, but he ultra-slammed schedule of The Paladins always had kept me from doing a lot of things - everything," Gonzalez writes.

Gonzalez finally made the time to write with Gaffney, and he's glad he did. "I was very limited in the [Paladins] trio," Gonzalez writes, "and...there was so much more I wanted to do in a songwriting and arranging. I needed a real good singer, a real good bigger band a real...record producer.

"There is nothing more important than a real experienced producer," Gonzalez writes. "It is completely awesome that we were lucky enough to get Mr. Dan Penn."