Album Review

As in a perfect marriage, musicians sometimes get together unexpectedly and hit it off famously.  With the Hacienda Brothers, it’s like a ménage a trios, but nothing of the sordid variety.  The third party in this union only affirms what’s already natural and right.

When Chris Gaffney isn’t leading his Cold Hart Facts, he’s adding burst of southwestern flavor on accordion to the music of Dave Alvin in the Guilty Men.  But Gaffney’s secret weapon is that he’s a gruff, regular-guy singer with a ton of soul power.  Dave Gonzalez, meanwhile has a superb all-around handle on guitar.  His retro-rockin’ Paladins always rock up a storm.  The first demo Gaffney and Gonzalez cut together pricked the ears of renowned writer/producer/performer Dan Penn, who signed on to produce the Hacienda’s self-titled debut, thereby completing the trio.

On What’s Wrong With Right, the Haciendas and Penn hone to precision their unique self-described “western soul music.”

“Midnight Dream” begins the album in magnificent fashion with lyrical, jazzy guitar and piano, and a melody and theme reminiscent of “Trying to Live My Life Without You.”  “Keep It Together” rocks steadily and bristles with soul.  Both are particularly extraordinary as they’re Gonzalez compositions, but indistinguishable in quality from “Cry Like A Baby,” the Penn classic that follows and stands out for its faithful reading colored gorgeously with pedal steel and accordion.

The Gonzalez/Penn title song is pure, weeping honky-tonk, tipping the proceedings surely to the “western” side of the equation.  Then “Cowboys To Girls,” the Gamble and Huff soul nugget, tips it nearly all the way back.

Each instrumentalist – five Haciendas plus a guest pianist – offer world-class performances, whether subtle or shining brightly.