RIP Chris Gaffney
It's hard when we lose a friend to cancer. It can sometimes be even
harder when that friend has touched the lives of many through his
music, and the Tucson, Arizona music scene (and the world) mourns
the great loss of the incredible Chris Gaffney, one half of
the alt. country duo The Hacienda Brothers. The good news to
come out of the entire thing is that we get this one last piece of
music from Gaffney and his partner Dave Gonzalez. Gaffney,
whether playing with Dave Alvin And The Guilty Men, on his
own, or as part of The Hacienda Brothers, has been a fixture on the
roots/Americana scene for years, and The Haciendas have been purveying
their own brand of Southwestern country music for the past five or
more years, releasing a fantastic handful of albums that fall more
heavily on the traditional country side of alt. Twanging lead guitars
and sorrowful pedal steel runs have always highlighted the Hacienda's
music, underscoring the gruff, but gentle vocals of Gaffney and Gonzalez.
Arizona Motel finds The Hacienda Brothers once more in fine
form, despite the medical problems that had been plaguing Gaffney
for the past couple years, as the band rips through blazing country
numbers like the gentle balladry of 'A Lot Of Days Are Gone"
and the ripping country twang of "I'll Come Running." Pedal
steel guitar plays perfectly alongside some meaty Telecaster riffs
on the romping stomp of "Big Town City" and the band slows
down for the haunting autobiography of "Use To The Pain."
Gaffney explores his life and mortality on more than one of these
songs, but always recovers and bears his own weight, launching once
more into honky tonk, as on the incredible "Long Way To Town"
which features one of the finest guitar solos of the past two decades.
Long-time friend and co-conspirator Dan Penn lends a production
hand on some of the album's more visceral and personal tracks, like
on the quietly unsettling beauty of "I Still Believe," a
song that takes the heart through stages of joy and pain and questioning
the point of life as things wind to their inevitable close.
On Arizona Motel, the Hacienda Brothers invoke the spirits
of real, down-home country music, incorporating little things like
Don Williams' unique tenderness, Merle Haggard's penchant
for workingman's twang, and even a bit of Hank's darkness vs.
light weaving of philosophy. The passing of Gaffney leaves a shadow
over this final album of his, but in that shadow lies not only the
memories of the man himself, but the greatness with which he lived
and loved his family and friends. Chris Gaffney will not soon be forgotten
in the world of country music, or in Tucson, or in the hearts of the
many fine people his life touched over the years.
Rest In Peace, old friend. You are sore missed and well loved.
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