Hacienda Brothers: 'Arizona Motel'

Vintage Guitar Magazine

The Last (and Best) of

by Wally Marx- August 2008


Arizona Motel is the last album we will ever get from the Hacienda Brothers. The death of lead singer Chris Gaffney in April has ended the five-year run of the best country band of the decade, and sealed their legacy.

The Hacienda Brothers’ great achievement was the melding of country, soul, blues, rockabilly and swing into an ageless sound that was more than the sum of its parts. They did this through a dedication to immaculate songwriting, flawless recording, and persistent touring.

The band says this will be its last release, and on it the Brothers adhere to the framework built with their own hands: powerful, cool tunes dealing with life and living. Their aim always was to make classics, whether it be one of their own or someone else’s. Arrangements, dynamics, and individual performances were always there to improve, support, and showcase the songs. This album delivers more moments of greatness, more consistently, than any of their previous releases and is a fully realized work of music-craft.

And it kicks butt. Guitars figure heavily on Arizona Motel, with Dave Gonzalez (co-leader, songwriter, and guitarist) and steel guitarist Dave Berzansky serving up a treasure trove of sublime riffs and fills. Pianos and organs fill in key background sections. Rhythms are tight, and the pace never lags.

Guitar players and car cruisers will latch onto the instrumental “Light It Again Charlie.” “I’ll Come Running” is a stone country tune with a quick beat that recalls early Paycheck and Owens. “Uncle Sam’s Jail” is a dark tune for a dark subject, telling the story of a young man in war. “Big Town City” and “Long Way To Town” are Gonzalez-penned tunes that reflect his classic country influences. Through it all, Gaffney and Gonzalez deliver world-class vocal performances that demonstrate just how good they got over their five years together.