Southern California roots rocker Chris Gaffney has been bumming around country music and its fringes for decades, backing up people like Ferlin Huskey and Webb Pierce and pursuing his own ragtag solo career. But on his last few records, especially the superb new Loser's Paradise (Hightone), he's truly come into his own. The perfect candidate for the recently created Americana radio format, which includes all those roots-based artists that don't fit into niches like country, blues, zydeco, or rockabilly, accordionist/pianist Gaffney glides through honky-tonk, Cajun, Tex-Mex conjuntos, and rock 'n' roll, and even makes a daring, successful stab at Philly soul, covering the Intruders hit "Cowboys to Girls" with Lucinda Williams. While joyfully traversing a wide turf, he wisely avoids strained attempts at authenticity, treating each style in his own way and never surrendering any of his strong personality. His part-quavery, part-husky voice--imagine a more whiskey-sodden, less nasal Willie Nelson--adds plenty of flavor to the proceedings. His songwriting covers the expected--outlaw narratives and plenty of laments on lost love--but he does it all with sly wit and an admirable sense of economy. Austin mainstays Ted & the Talltops, whose leader, Ted Roddy, has a fine new solo album out, open the show and then back up Gaffney. Thursday, September 14, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Beth Herzhaft.