SoCal roots-scene stalwarts Chris Gaffney (leader of the Cold Hard Facts, member of Dave Alvin’s Guilty Men) and Dave Gonzalez (front man and guitarist for rockabilly-blues trio the Paladins) first teamed up to play a friend’s birthday party in late 2002. They soon began writing together and gigging as the Hacienda Brothers, exploring their shared passion for 60s country and soul. A demo grabbed the attention of Memphis songwriting legend Dan Penn–author of “Cry Like a Baby,” “Dark End of the Street,” and countless other classics–and he wound up penning a pair of songs for and producing the Haciendas’ self-titled debut, due from Koch Nashville in February. The group calls its style “western soul,” but the LP comes off like a hard-core country record duded up with irresistible Stax grooves and gorgeous Morricone flourishes. Gaffney began his career singing behind honky-tonk immortals like Webb Pierce and Hank Snow; here he justifies his rep as one of roots rock’s most gifted vocalists, making like a modern-day Mr. Heartache on the Johnny Paycheck-styled opener “She’s Gone,” swaggering through the big-rig chestnut “South of Lonesome,” and damn near bringing tears to your eyes on the Ray Price homage “Seven Little Numbers.” Meanwhile Gonzalez nearly steals the show with his fiery Telecaster work and train-whistle harmonies. It’s pretty early to be making predictions, but right now I’d say Hacienda Brothers has the inside track for best country album of ’05. The Riptones open. Friday 29, 10 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $8, 21+.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jeb Schoonover.