When the talented and much loved Chris Gaffney passed away last year, it was a loss for the Americana music world, and particularly for the Hacienda Brothers – the band he started with David Gonzalez. Gonzalez decided not to fill Gaffney’s void and continue the Hacienda. Instead he started the rather like-minded Stone River Boys, and picked Mike Barfield to be his new musical sidekick. On paper, Barfield seemed to be an inspired choice. In the late ‘90s, he led the neo-honky-tonk outfit, the Hollisters, and has also displayed an affinity for the twangy soul sound that the Hacienda Brothers did so well.
I caught up with the Stone River Boys when they road into L.A. on Sept. 24 for a show at the Mint. Their set started out tackling their two main musical pursuits: the Hacienda’s western soul number “Midnight Dream” followed by old Hollisters’ honky tonkin’ favorite “East Texas Pines.” Gonzalez dedicated “Walkin’ On My Dreams” to Gaffney’s widow, who was in the house.
At first Barfield seemed to be hanging back a little, looking a bit uncertain of his role. But he soon loosened up, showing off (for lack of a better word) his swivel-hip, maraca-shaking dance moves on tunes like the “She’s A Yum Yum” and “The Struggle.” He proved that Gonzalez’s selection of him to be a good one. His “life of the party” persona balanced nicely with Gonzalez’s gritty guitar work as well as Hacienda Brother holdover David Berzansky’s terrific steel guitar playing.
While the Stone River Boys are a relatively young band in terms of time together, they are old souls who know how to play their brand of rockin’ soulful country music with skill and vitality. Their set let me looking forward to seeing a CD come out from them.