The Hacienda Brothers self-titled, debut record earned them the term of "Western Soul" when it came to describing their music. For someone that has never heard that term, it is a combination of country with oldies influenced R&B and on this follow-up record, "What's Wrong With Right," the Hacienda Brothers knock the ball out of the park. Teaming up with songwriter Dan Penn to produce the album added an influence of 60's style to the otherwise dusty, country style (think Willie Nelson) that the Hacienda Brothers create. The lead vocals are raw at times, while at others they are very soulful and reminded me a lot of Van Morrison especially on tracks like "Keep It Together" and one of the two tributes to Penn, a cover of The Boxtops "Cry Like A Baby." This is obviously a band that draws an influence from the older style of music. Whether it is pure country as heard on title track "What's Wrong With Right" or Elvis Presley styled R&B as heard on "Rebound" there is going to be something here for a fan of both. Pretty solid album that has a lot of roots that shine through on the 13 tracks that make it up. There isn't any sophomore slump with this band, as they have only gotten better.
On the surface, the combination might seem as strange as barbequed cactus, as the Memphis soul of producer and legendary songwriter Dan Penn meets the wide-open Southwestern strains of Arizona's Hacienda Brothers. Yet the lead brothers--singer/accordionist Chris Gaffney and guitarist/primary songwriter Dave Gonzalez--have plainly found a kindred spirit as well as a guiding light in Penn. The Haciendas' transformation of "Cry Like a Baby" (the Box Tops classic, penned by Penn and Spooner Oldham), spiced with accordion and steel guitar breaks, gives the tune a whole new seasoning, while the rendition of "It Tears Me Up" holds its own against Percy Sledge's original. Yet the music goes even farther afield, from the Philly soul of Gamble and Huff's "Cowboy to Girls" and a Gonzalez original, "The Last Time," that sounds like a signature shuffle by Ray Price, to the Sun-era rockabilly of "Rebound." A majestic cover of Charlie Rich's "Life's Little Ups and Downs" obliterates all distinction between country and soul. If the liner notes lacked songwriting credits, two Hacienda originals--the opening "Midnight Dream" and "Keep It Together"--could pass as Penn's R&B, while the title track--a collaboration between Gonzalez and Penn--is the purest country song here. --Don McLeese