Hacienda Brothers: "Arizona Motel"

by Nick Cristiano- Jun. 29, 2008

(Proper ***1/2)

This is the last Hacienda Brothers album, with good reason - lead singer Chris Gaffney died of cancer in April at 57. It's also the best Haciendas album, as Gaffney and his fellow front man, Dave Gonzalez, continue to explore a hybrid of their own dubbed "Western soul."

It's a variation of country-soul, the Southern style pioneered by Dan Penn, who is back to work again with the band, this time as producer of five cuts and cowriter of two. If Gonzalez's generally twangy guitar accounts for a lot of the country element, much of the soul emanates from the singing of Gaffney, who was also a member of Dave Alvin's Guilty Men. With his weathered tenor, he expresses the deep hurt of "Use to the Pain," the steady resolve of "I Still Believe," and the sweet joy of the gospel/R&B-fired "Soul Mountain" in ways that would give George Jones a run for his money - and only heighten the sense of loss.