Former Hacienda Brother Dave Gonzalez (left) and Mike Barfield, now mates in the Stone River Boys, augmenting the Haciendas’ legacy

Carrying On
The Stone River Boys Pick Up Where The Hacienda Brothers Left Off, And Then Some

By David McGee

Love On The Dial
Stone River Boys
Cow Island Music

When the legendary Dan Penn was putting his producer’s touch on those great Hacienda Brothers albums awhile back, he came up with a succinct phrase to describe the band’s cross-genre musical blend: “Western soul.” Following the death of the Hacienda’s gifted Chris Gaffney, the Hacienda Brothers ceased to exist, but Gaffney’s compadre and bandmate Dave Gonzalez is carrying on the Hacienda ethos in grand style in a new collaboration with “The Tyrant of Texas Funk,” Mike Barfield. In short, western soul is alive and well in the form of the Stone River Boys, another fine Austin export to the world beyond the Lone Star State borders.

Stone River Boys—The Struggle
At Mojo’s Mayhem, March 21, 2009, the Stone River Boys launch into their funky new dance, ‘The Struggle’

As an example of how the SRBs honor the Haciendas’ legacy and start work on a new one of their own, you’ll hear some delightful Sir Doug ebullience in the bouncy rhythm of “Special,” not to mention Barfield’s Jim Lauderdale-ish drawling vocal articulating the loves and losses of a fellow who’s hopping freights to take him away from one dreary situation or another, in a song that trundles along at a frisky pace fueled by Fuzzy Blazek’s whining steel guitar and Gonzalez’s fat baritone twangs. On the other hand, two cuts into this endeavor you’ll think you’ve landed back in some southern soul hotbed from the ‘60s when the band takes flight on Tyrone Davis’s 1969 smash single, “Can I Change My Mind,” with Barfield giving the tune a swaggering vocal, Gonzalez adding some classic scratchy guitar throughout, and James Sweeney enriching the funky mood with some deep swoops of the Hammond here and there. But the Stone River Boys no more stay in one spot than did the Haciendas, so don’t be startled when they lay into a heart-tugging honky tonk weeper from Gonzalez’s pen, “Still Feel the Feeling,” concerning a certain haunting memory of a love lost and deeply mourned, complete with the requisite droplets of steel tears and pungent guitar punctuation supporting Barfield’s searching, tear-stained pleading. As fine a job as the group does interpreting Tyrone Davis’s ‘60s soul classic, it tops itself in the cover department with a dry, dusty, haunting rendition of Goffin-King’s “Take a Giant Step,” a winsome call to rise up from the ashes of love’s misfortune and see the world with new eyes. This take hews closer to Taj Mahal’s country blues rendition, but even Taj affected an optimistic feel at times, whereas Barfield, in a steel-drenched arrangement, sings it as a dirge, never once letting in any light, and making something quite different of the hopeful lyrical advice to the lovelorn its composers were offering. Chris Gaffney’s country-soul vocalizing is sorely missed—he could have knocked any number of these songs way out of the park—but if he’s keeping tabs on his mates (the Haciendas’ Hank Maninger is playing bass on three tracks here), surely he’s pleased that the Stone River Boys are furthering his old band’s vision, and staking out some distinctive turf of their own at the same time. Well done.

The Stone River Boys’ Love On The Dial is available at

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