Tradewinds, Cotati, CA
February 27, 2004
This new quintet, which explores the band?s love of classic "honky tonk" country and early soul with a Southwestern flavor, is led by two musicians' musicians: Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Chris Gaffney, and the Palidins' front man, San Diego based lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitar slinger Dave Gonzales. Hence, the name "Hacienda Brothers."
We arrived as the band was tuning up. The first thing I observed was that this is a band of good looking guys as they are very clean cut and wholesome looking for musicians. Gonzales explained his strategy concerning such in an on-line interview, "I felt like the only way I was going to survive in this business was to stay straight, work hard, save my dough, and I'm glad I did. I worked really hard and ended up being lucky enough to buy my own house and I feel really fortunate to be able to do that considering we've (Palidins) never really had a hit record. I feel very fortunate that we're still playing. We never tried to contour our sound to become what the next fad is and I've never had to play in a Top 40 band."
While the music of the Palidins stews the Sun Records, Memphis sound, where the blues, country and soul all came together to mutate into rockabilly, the Hacienda Brothers, who were all the rage at this year?s South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, describe their sound as "honky-tonk soul." So take the Buddy Guy and B.B. King influences out of Gonzales' playing, and you're left with a much more restrained Waylon Jennings flavor coming from his guitar. He does not shoot bullets from it in this band like he does with the Palidins. And he uses a gold metallic Fender Telecaster that was given to him by the Fender Corporation, as opposed to the Guild, which is a separate division of Fender, he uses for the Palidins.
Alternating between acoustic guitar and accordion while singing most of the lead vocals is Chris Gaffney, a veteran of Southwestern music. He is mostly known as a sometime member of Dave Alvin's Guilty Men. Gaffney, who has played with country singer-songwriter legends like Webb Pierce and Hank Snow, can sing a county ballad as good as anyone. Haunting best describes his singing. It doesn't get any better.
The solid rhythm section consists of Berkeley based Hank Maninger on bass, who is most well known as a long time member of Bonnie Hayes' Wild Combo. He plays a Guild Starfire Bass which looks similar to a hollow body guitar. Jack Cassidy is probably the most well known player who uses one. The sound is unique with deep lows, mellow mids, just a bit of a growl on full treble. "Sustain" does not describe its ability to hold a note?. Think of Cassidy's bass intro for the Jefferson Airplane's Summer of Love classic, ?White Rabbit.? On drums is Los Angeles based Dale Daniel, who has played with pedal steel guitar player Lloyd Maines of Joe Ely Band fame, whose daughter, Natalie Maines, is the leader of the Dixie Chicks.
The youngest member of the band - the baby face ? is their 29 year old pedal steel guitarist, Dave Berzansky, or DB, as the band called him. He is based in Los Angeles and also plays in a band called The Country Aces. This kid is immensely talented and held his own trading tasteful licks with Gonzales.
Making their Sonoma County debut at the Tradewinds in Cotati, they opened with a fine cover of ?Six Days On The Road.?
?Well, I pulled out of Pittsburgh, a-rollin' down that
Besides traditional country originals and covers, they also did a honky tonk version of ?Since I Met You Baby,? demonstrating that the gap between traditional country and blues is thin and can easily be combined into a gumbo.
Despite the Palidins having a substantial following in Sonoma County, the weeknight show was sparsely attended as the Tradewinds do not have an advertising budget, other than fliers they have posted in downtown Cotati. I was informed by the bartender that the staff was pretty wiped out from the week-and-a-half Mardi Gras special events run that just ended. There were some local rockabilly and blues musicians in the house. I heard about the show on Bill Bowker's weekday afternoon KRSH radio show when he plugged it the day before. He was in attendance as well and told me the next day he thought the band was "great." Fortunately, the band did not seem to mind the low turnout as they treated the gig as two rehearsal sets with an intimate and appreciative audience with no distractions.
This was my first time at the Tradewinds for a show. I have wandered in briefly during breaks while I was across the street at various incarnations of the Inn of the Beginning over the years as there is usually no cover charge. They sometimes have special shows like this one for a very reasonable cover charge - 5 bucks - but I usually don't learn about them until after the fact. The joint is funky in a Cotati kind of way... Because there were few people and no one was dancing, we were able to sit at the bar directly in front of the band with a clear view. Sweet.
The Hacienda Brothers have enormous potential. I would not be surprised if a Gaffney ballad becomes a hit single for them. Indeed, their soon-to-be released CD was produced by none other than soul legend Dan Penn, who wrote such historic gems as ?Dark End of the Street,? ?I'm Your Puppet,? ?Sweet Inspiration,? and ?Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.? Click here to view pics of the recording sessions.