Live Show Review
Bottom line: Piston the night away: Country-soul mixture is a nice ride.
In the era when rhythm & blues led directly to rock 'n' roll, the automobile provided a symbolic link between the music and the culture. Much like the cars they addressed, Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88" and Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" were brash, shiny and potentially dangerous.
So, too, was some of the music that came from the honky-tonks in that era, and it's that flashy, supercharged spirit that drove the Hacienda Brothers in Friday's performance at Cozy's.
Backing a new album, "What's Wrong With Right," the Haciendas have a retro soul, similar to cult guit-steel player Junior Brown. Much of the night's lengthy set list harkened back to the smoke-filled dance halls that bred Bob Wills' country-jazz hybrid, Western swing and Ray Price's two-step-ready shuffle beat. With occasional forays into rock, R&B and the blues, the band offered as much sonic swagger and energy as one associates with some of those classic pioneering rock records and the V8 engines that populated the roads.
Primary singer Chris Gaffney has a Johnny Paycheck air about him, not only in the tough-but-vulnerable quality of his voice but in the mixture of quiet slurs and bitter attacks he used to alternately punctuate his phrasing. Occasionally, he embodied country relics Wynn Stewart or Freddie Hart, and on several occasions he pulled out surprising guttural sounds a la Bobby "Blue" Bland.
But what really distinguished the Haciendas' vehicle was the pacing of instrumentalists David Berzansky and Dave Gonzalez. Despite his rather unassuming demeanor, Berzansky provided the chrome-and-tail fin flash, using crafty slides and bends on steel guitar to effect the same dramatic sadness that John Hughey achieved in Conway Twitty's earliest country hits. But Berzansky also demonstrated an impressive flexibility, segueing from blasts of sound to understated chicken-picking with a showy ease.
Gonzalez offered the power under the hood, girding the sound chassis with the same sinewy guitar sounds that Jimmy Colvard applied to Dave Dudley's "Six Days on the Road," which the Haciendas appropriately covered. Gonzalez also veered into blues and rock territory, approaching his instrument with much the same authority as B.B. King, occasionally hitting top speed but more often cruising confidently through the material.
The quintet stamped its three sets with enough soul influence to remind the house why people have often referred to country music as the white man's blues. A couple of songs with pulsing bass lines and call-and-response vocals felt like twangy Mel & Tim or countryfied Sam & Dave. The set list included an accordian-scented Tex-Mex version of Dan Penn's soul-pop song "Cry Like a Baby" and a lengthy segue into Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby."
It all fit together quite nicely. After all, the musical roots of the Haciendas are like a well-built engine: Properly maintained, they run well for a long, long time.