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Love On the Dial

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Album Review

The Stone River Boys started out as an extension of the Hacienda Brothers, a country-soul outfit led by Chris Gaffney and former Paladin Dave Gonzalez and produced/mentored by Southern soul songsmith extraordinaire Dan Penn. When Gaffney was stricken with cancer, his bandmates went on a benefit tour to help defray his medical costs, casting funky Texas singer Mike Barfield in the frontman role. After Gaffney's passing, Gonzalez and Barfield began a new project that picked up where the Hacienda Brothers left off. Their debut album, Love on the Dial, blends soul grooves and country twang, just as the Gonzalez/Gaffney outfit did, but the addition of Barfield makes for a crucial alteration in the sound as well. Where Gaffney's lonely-man delivery slipped easily into slow-burning, Stax-style soul drama, Barfield has a funk orientation that pushes things into more of an uptempo, groove-conscious direction, leaning more toward, say, Archie Bell & the Drells than William Bell. And since Barfield's songwriting is as dominant a force on Love on the Dial as his big, bold vocal style, that makes all the difference. But the Stone River Boys aren't simply the Dap-Kings with cowboy hats — the country element of the band's sound comes on strong, too. "Lover's Prison," for example, sounds like it could have come straight off of a classic Buck Owens album, but in fact it comes from the pen of Barfield. That almost-familiar feeling occurs throughout the album, as the band proves itself consistently capable of turning out tunes that summon the spirit of vintage country and soul without resorting to slavish imitation. They even take a song from a decidedly non-roots source — the Goffin/King nugget "Take a Giant Step," originally recorded by the Monkees — and make it feel like a certified R&B staple. ~ J. Allen, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Dave Gonzalez and Mike Barfield cook up country, rock, soul and funk

Out of tragedy, new opportunities sometimes spring. With the passing of vocalist Chris Gaffney, the Hacienda Brothers were shuttered, and Gaffney’s partner, Dave Gonzalez, was left to seek a new musical outlet. As a founding member of the California-based Paladins, Gonzalez had explored rockabilly and blues, and crafted a reputation as an ace electric guitarist. His work with Gafney on three Hacienda Brothers studio albums refined his playing with quieter country and southern soul flavors. His new partner, the Texas-based Mike Barfield, cut his teeth leading the Houston-based Hollisters, folding together country-rock hillbilly twang, tic-tac train rhythms, and deadpan baritone vocals that brought to mind Johnny Cash and John Doe. After two group albums, Barfield turned solo, issuing the superb Living Stereo in 2002. Barfield’s second solo album, The Tyrant, was heavier on the funk rhythms than his debut, and though elements of that remain in this new collaboration, its his background in southern soul, blues and swamp rock that makes him a natural fit with Gonzalez. This isn’t Hacienda Brothers Mark II, as Barfield and Gaffney are very different singers and songwriters, but the songs, including a few well-selected covers, draw on similar sources. Barfield reprises his cover of Tyrone Davis’ “Can I Change My Mind,” which appeared on Living Stereo in more raw form. Here the earlier twin guitar leads are replaced by Dave Biller’s pedal steel and James Sweeny’s Hammond organ, and the entire track finds a deeper, smoother soul groove atop Scott Esbeck’s bass line. Barfield also revisits his own “Lovers Prison,” slowing it down slightly and adding more bottom end. It ends up sounding like a winning cross between the Buckaroos and the Lovin’ Spoonful. The album’s most unusual cover is a take on Goffin & King’s “Take a Giant Step” that melds the psychedelic inflections of the Monkees’ original (the B-side of their first single) with the slow tempo of Taj Mahal’s 1969 cover. Barfield and Gozalez’s originals, written both separately and together, include southern-funk dance numbers, country rock, and most winningly, country-soul tunes that include the Gonzalez-sung “Still Feel the Feeling” and the co-written “Love’s Gonna Make It.” Barfield’s Texas sensibilities fit well with the Memphis influences Gonzalez picked up working with Dan Penn, and both fold perfectly into the duo’s country roots. Backed by a band that’s equally at home with twang and deep bass, the Stone River Boys are all set to burn it up on the road. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

What a great piece of work!

What a great effort leaving the beaten path. Great vocals, very artistic, flowing guitar melodies, and a very fluid choice with speeding up and slowing down the numbers. If you like country, you will really enjoy this. If you like a bit of blues mixed in, you will really really enjoy this. I had the pleasure of seeing Mike and his Rounders open for the Boxmasters in Houston. It was truly one of the greatest shows I have ever seen. He really puts a show on for his fans. Enjoy!

The new "Dynamic Due"!!!

This album is amazing. One of the best I have ever heard. Every song just rolls along with superb lyrics and head shaking, foot tapping hooks. Dont pass on this album. This is a ture road album, I have listened to it going up and down the California coast, and its had its fair share of play time sitting out on the patio drinking beers or table playing cards. A music masterpiece in my opinion! Thanks boys, im smilling listening to this now and writting this review. Buy it, you wont be dissappointed!

Love On the Dial, Stone River Boys
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: Country, Music
  • Released: May 18, 2010

Customer Ratings