1/2 The award for cover of the year goes to: The Hacienda Brothers for “Cowboys to Girls.”
I’ve never heard of any kind of musical awards for cover songs, but if there was such a prize, the Haciendas would take it hands-down for their countrified version of Gamble & Huff’s soul classic.
A staple of the country soul band’s brilliant live show, “Cowboys to Girls” is just one of the killer tracks on “What’s Wrong With Right,” the band’s second release and the record its fans had hoped it would make.
Balancing covers, including a great “Cry Like a Baby” and a pair of Charlie Rich tunes, with a handful of originals, “What’s Wrong With Right” captures everything that makes The Hacienda Brothers one of those rare special bands.
The hard country of “The Last Time” rubs up against the Irish-tinged “If Daddy Don’t Sing Danny Boy Tonight.” Classic Memphis soul slides into the west on “What’s Wrong With Right,” and the twangy instrumental closer “Son of Saguaro” comes right out of a spaghetti western.
Such is the range of the band fronted by Chris Gaffney and Dave Gonzalez. While Gonzalez of Paladins fame takes the vocal lead on a few tunes, including the soul-drenched original “Keep It Together” and Rich’s swinging “Rebound,” Gaffney is the primary singer here — and his voice is pure soul, slightly gravelly and always connecting with heartfelt emotion.
Gonzalez’s Telecaster guitar leads the instrumental pack, which seamlessly combines the honky-tonk pedal steel with a Stax/Volt groove, creating a soulful mixture that’s perfectly blended by Dan Penn, the soul legend who co-wrote “Cry Like a Baby” and “It Tears Me Up” and whose sensibility perfectly fits The Haciendas.
If you’re among those who pack the Zoo Bar each time the Hacienda Brothers come through town, you’ll want to get “What’s Wrong With Right” right now. And if you haven’t heard them yet, the record is a perfect introduction to one of America’s great bands with a distinct, timeless sound.