Stone River Boys’ Dave Gonzalez (left) and Mike Barfield.
It’s inspiring to hear Dave Gonzalez’s enthusiasm for his new album, “Love On the Dial,” with the Stone River Boys. Over the last three decades, the legendary roots/rock guitarist has played thousands of gigs all over the world with his bands — the Paladins and the Hacienda Brothers.
And yet his excitement for music couldn’t be any higher.
Here’s why I suspect that’s happening. He’s still getting better at everything he does and more people are paying attention. Gonzalez and the Stone River Boys perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at Johnny’s Cathouse (1729 California St.) in downtown Redding. Tickets are $13.
As a guitarist and bandleader, Gonzalez has been blowing people’s minds for a long time. When I first saw the Paladins, I came away from the experience thinking, “I believe I’ve just seen the greatest rockabilly guitarist ever.”
People still remember Gonzalez’s set with the Paladins opening up for Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Redding Convention Center in 1987. Stevie Ray was in his mesmerizing prime, but the Paladins held their own. Man, I would have loved to have seen that show.
Gonzalez remembers that after the Redding concert, both bands traveled to Reno for a show the next night. The weather was dicey heading over the pass to Susanville and the Paladins were a bit late getting to the venue. When they arrived, Stevie Ray greeted them in the parking lot.
“As we backed in, he came up and said, ‘Are you guys OK? We were worried about you,” Gonzalez said. “He was genuinely concerned. He was the real thing.”
Redding has been a good town to Gonzalez and his bands. The Hacienda Brothers played one of their first gigs at Pio Loco. Not long after, the country-soul act started perking up people’s ears all over the place. Gonzalez found a potent combination with the amazing soul-singer Chris Gaffney and soon they were being interviewed on NPR and playing bigger and bigger venues.
When I saw them performing at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco before several thousand, I thought, wow, they’re on their way. There was no denying the wicked combination of roots soul, style and performance.
But then Gaffney got sick just when he was starting to gain a much wider audience, and he succumbed to liver cancer two years ago. Gaffney was also a long-time sideman and close friend of Dave Alvin, and the tribute album, “The Man of Somebody’s Dreams,” reveals just what a fantastic songwriter he was in addition to soul singer and bandleader. Gonzalez, Alvin, Los Lobos, Boz Skaggs, James McMurtry, Freddy Fender, Alejandro Escovedo and many others cover his great songs on that album.
When Gaffney got sick, Gonzalez traveled to Texas to round up musicians to tour and send money to Gaffney and his family. One of the first guys he came across was a friend he’d known from the music scene for years — Mike Barfield, who had led the Houston bands the Rounders and the Hollisters. A talented singer-songwriter-performer himself, Barfield was up for the new adventure.
The Stone River Boys’ new release is “Love On the Dial.”
Gonzalez and Barfield are now at the core of the new Stone River Boys.
When Gonzalez heard the songs Barfield had been carrying around with him, he instantly got a picture in his mind of how they could be recorded. Gonzalez had learned a lot from the great Dan Penn, who produced the three Hacienda Brothers albums.
He applied that knowledge to the new recording by the Stone River Boys, done in four sessions at Fuse Recording Studio in Lincoln, Neb., and at Premium Recording Studio in Austin, Texas, where Gonzalez now calls home.
“We traveled almost 40,000 miles last year and played a lot of gigs and everywhere we went people loved the band and they said, ‘We want your record,'” Gonzalez said by phone while on the road in Southern California yesterday. “Now we’ve got a brand new record and a great road band. We’re having a good time and it’s pretty exciting.”
The band played one of its early gigs in Redding last year and it was excellent. I’m sure the band is even tighter now (they have a regular Wednesday gig at the Continental Club in Austin, which is one of the great clubs in arguably the greatest live music city in the United States).
There will be plenty of country soul and rockabilly and funk (and hopefully Mike Barfield’s funky dancing). Listen for sublime pedal steel guitar to play off Gonzalez’s incredible leads. I’m sure there will be some Hacienda Brothers tunes played. The spirit of Gaffney will be in the room.
“I learned so much working with Gaffney and writing with him,” Gonzalez said. “When I first heard Mike (Barfield), I felt the same way about him. I know (Chris) would be real happy about the new band and the new songs. It’s a lot in the direction the Haciendas were going with that deep country and R&B. Mike’s got that great Texas rock ‘n’ roll and soul sensibility. There are a lot of similarities, and yet a lot of refreshing differences.”