CD Reviews for 06/01/09 – Chris Gaffney tribute, Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women

Compact Capsules for June 1, 2009
by Dan Ferguson

Various Artists
Man of Somebody’s Dreams: A Tribute to Chris Gaffney
Yep Roc Records YEP-2198

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women
Last Exit to Happyland
Yep Roc Records YEP-2155

The tragic passing of both his band and soulmate Chris Gaffney of cancer just over a year ago hit Dave Alvin hard, to the point that it provided the impetus for two new releases from the one time Grammy winner.
Alvin and Gaffney’s friendship went back to the burgeoning Southern California roots rock & roll scene of the early 1980s where Alvin was making waves with The Blasters and Gaffney to a lesser extent with his Cold Hard Facts band. After splitting from The Blasters in 1986, Alvin would move in various directions before forming his Guilty Men band in the 1990s of which Gaffney was a member playing accordion and contributing vocals on occasion. Gaffney would also continue his own career during this time releasing a variety of albums on labels such as Rom, HighTone, and Tres Pescadores. An exceptional songwriter, it was his songs sung in an oh-so-soulful, smoky voice that perked many an ear. Among his contemporaries in the music world, Gaffney’s songs were to-die-for. When he teamed up with Dave Gonzales of The Paladins fame early in this decade to form The Hacienda Brothers, Gaffney truly hit his stride as a vocalist with the band’s distinctive “Western soul” sound. The cancer diagnosis came out of nowhere and hoping to help raise funds to help offset Gaffney’s medical expenses, Alvin set forth to put together a tribute album. Unfortunately, Gaffney’s end came before the album got off the ground. Now a year later, Man of Somebody’s Dreams: A Tribute to Chris Gaffney is a reality thanks to Alvin. It features a who’s who of roots music types from Calexico to Joe Ely, Los Lobos to Alejandro Escovedo, Peter Case to Boz Scaggs, and James McMurtry to John Doe to Robbie Fulks among the participants each doing the honors on one from the Gaffney song bag. If justice is served, such star profile will shine a light on Gaffney’s talents as a songwriter such that folks will seek out the genuine article. By the way, proceeds from the compilation benefit the non-profit group Hungry for Music and surviving members of Gaffney’s family.
With the loss of his Guilty Men bandmate, Dave Alvin did some thinking and decided a musical change of direction was needed. It was the Strictly Bluegrass Festival held annually in the Fall in the Bay Area that presented the opportunity to try a different tact. It amounted to Alvin putting together an all-star band of women he has known for years through various music circles, supremely talented types like Cindy Cashdollar, Sarah Brown, Laurie Lewis, Christy McWilson, Nina Gerber, Amy Farris, and Lisa Pankratz. Dubbed “The Guilty Women”, things went so well that within several weeks they were all in an Austin studio laying down the tracks that are now for the newly released Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women. Alvin adapts well to the feline setting, his gruff and raspy voice buoyed by his Guilty Women with each of the ladies getting an opportunity to strut their stuff be it vocally on instrumentally. Visit

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women appear three times in the area in July. On July 15, they are at The Regattabar in Cambridge. The next evening finds them at The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River. Finally, on Saturday, July 17, they are part of the lineup at The Green River Festival in Greenfield, MA.

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)