IOWA CITY PRESS-CITIZEN | by Jim Musser | June 26, 2008

Arizona Motel Review

In just five years, the Hacienda Brothers established themselves as rugged, blue-collar torchbearers-plus of the soulful, roots-aware country-rock of Gram Parsons' and Chris Hillman's mercurial Flying Burrito Brothers.

Co-fronted by singer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Gaffney and guitar wizard/singer Dave Gonzalez, along with boss steel-guitarist David Berzansky and the taut rhythm section of Hank Maninger and Dale Daniel, the Haciendas created a spicy Southwestern stew from Gaffney and Gonzalez originals plus well-chosen soul and country evergreens.

The past tense regarding this muscular combo is due to Gaffney's rapid, losing battle with liver cancer in April; their brand-new (fourth and last CD) "Arizona Motel" might've been a harbinger of a great summer tour. Instead it's a bittersweet, tear-stained memorial.

Huge props go out to soul legend/frequent co-collaborator Dan Penn (who produces five tracks and writes two) and fluent keyboard hotshot Joe Terry (The Skeletons, Dave Alvin) for expanding the sonic treasures herein.

The T-Bone/Memphis-roadhouse-gone-West instrumental "Light It Again Charlie" (highlighting Gonzalez, Terry and Gaffney's sly, party-starting accordion) flaunts the group's chops, and the eclectic range of the songs is breathtaking, but it ultimately comes down to Gaffney's astonishing vocal command.

Through closing-time weepers, western-swing, break-up soul, giddy-up two-steppers, gospel and more, Chris Gaffney ruled the roost.

Gonna miss that ol' boy.