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The Hacienda Brothers

Arizona Motel
Proper Records
www.haciendabrothers.com


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.

-Embo Blake

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