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Stone River Boys (Gonzalez and Barfield)
  • Stone River Boys (Gonzalez and Barfield)
Roots-rock veteran Dave Gonzalez—still known best as the front man for hard-rocking 90s Americana outfit the Paladins—started the Stone River Boys under the worst of circumstances. They weren't yet playing under that name in early 2008, when Gonzalez organized the group for a fund-raising tour, hoping to defray some of the medical expenses of his Hacienda Brothers bandmate Chris Gaffney. Gaffney succumbed to liver cancer a few months later. But on that tour Gonzalez developed such a good musical relationship with singer Mike Barfield (another roots-rock lifer, who's played with the Rounders and the Hollisters) that they decided to turn their one-off road band into a permanent combo.

Early this summer the Stone River Boys released their debut album, Love on the Dial (Cow Island), and in many ways it's similar to the solid country soul of the Haciendas—a sound that draws on the legacy of brilliant Memphis songwriter and producer Dan Penn, who worked on their two final albums.

Barfield is a fine vocalist, but he doesn't have the natural feel for R&B that Gaffney did, which becomes especially obvious when the band covers the Tyrone Davis classic "Can I Change My Mind." On the original groover "Love on the Dial" Barfield overdoes the soulful inflections and ends up sounding like he's got a mouth full of oatmeal. I actually think Gonzalez nails the soulful material better on the two tunes he sings, especially "Still Feel the Feeling" (you can hear it below). Wisely, the band focuses on original material with a healthy dose of Bakersfield honky-tonk—the record benefits from the presence of Texas steel-guitar whiz Dave Biller, who's unfortunately not in the touring lineup.

"Still Feel the Feeling":

The group shares a bill with Robbie Fulks on Friday night at FitzGerald's.

Today's playlist:

Puma, Half Nelson Courtship (Rune Grammofon)
David Bowie, Low (RCA)
Lee Morgan, Tom Cat (Blue Note)
Roy Lee Johnson, When a Guitar Plays the Blues (Bear Family)
Javelin, No Mas (Luaka Bop)

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