Chris Gaffney was once described as "a quintessential Southern California bar musician," and while he was also a great deal more than that -- a superb songwriter and a recording artist who made fine records on his own, as a sideman and as part of the combo the Hacienda Brothers -- the mix of country, R&B and norteño influences that defined his music was a clear reflection of the working class California environment where he grew up. Gaffney was highly regarded by his fellow songwriters and musicians, even though he never enjoyed the commercial or critical breakthrough that would open him up to the larger audience he deserved before liver cancer took his life in 2008 at the age of 57, and his friend and frequent collaborator Dave Alvin has produced a moving and well-crafted tribute to the man and his music, The Man of Somebody's Dreams: A Tribute to the Songs of Chris Gaffney. The 18 songs here capture the flinty honesty and hard-won compassion that was a major part of Gaffney's best work, and Alvin proves to be a fine casting agent, fitting each song to the artist with unerring skill. Calexico find a weathered beauty in the liquor-soaked lovers of "Frank's Tavern," Los Lobos bring a gentle sadness to the long-gone romance of "The Man of Somebody's Dreams," Robbie Fulks delivers a solid honky tonk swing on "King of the Blues" (and Peter Case does the same for "Six Nights a Week"), Alejandro Escovedo brings the tragic pathos of "1968" to vivid life, John Doe captures the titular emotions of "Quiet Desperation" with a perfect touch, and legendary songwriter Dan Penn knows just how to handle the work of another great tunesmith on "I'm So Proud." The late Freddy Fender's aching and evocative rendition of "The Gardens" from the Texas Tornados' 4 Aces is a welcome addition to this set, and while Boz Scaggs hardly seems like someone you'd expect to see in this company, he brings a slinky and sensuous R&B groove to "Midnight Dream" that shows Gaffney was more than just another guy on the L.A. roots music scene. Closing with one of Gaffney's final recordings -- an unreleased tune called "Guitars of My Dead Friends" -- the effect of The Man of Somebody's Dreams sometimes feels like a wake as much as a celebration, but this music honors a man who deserved a better hand than he was dealt, and one listen to these songs will prove that's a fact to anyone with ears.
Thanks Peterrocker for sharing this with us.