AMAZON.COM | by Don McLeese, May 31, 2006


On the surface, the combination might seem as strange as barbequed cactus, as the Memphis soul of producer and legendary songwriter Dan Penn meets the wide-open Southwestern strains of Arizona's Hacienda Brothers. Yet the lead brothers--singer/accordionist Chris Gaffney and guitarist/primary songwriter Dave Gonzalez--have plainly found a kindred spirit as well as a guiding light in Penn. The Haciendas' transformation of "Cry Like a Baby" (the Box Tops classic, penned by Penn and Spooner Oldham), spiced with accordion and steel guitar breaks, gives the tune a whole new seasoning, while the rendition of "It Tears Me Up" holds its own against Percy Sledge's original. Yet the music goes even farther afield, from the Philly soul of Gamble and Huff's "Cowboy to Girls" and a Gonzalez original, "The Last Time," that sounds like a signature shuffle by Ray Price, to the Sun-era rockabilly of "Rebound." A majestic cover of Charlie Rich's "Life's Little Ups and Downs" obliterates all distinction between country and soul. If the liner notes lacked songwriting credits, two Hacienda originals--the opening "Midnight Dream" and "Keep It Together"--could pass as Penn's R&B, while the title track--a collaboration between Gonzalez and Penn--is the purest country song here. Take the opportunity to see them when they are in your neck of the woods.