Stone River Boys: Love on the Dial (Cow Island)

Former Hacienda Brothers/Paladins ace Dave Gonzalez has bounced back from the sudden passing in 2008 of fellow Hacienda Brother Chris Gaffney with a new Austin-based combo, Stone River Boys.

On their debut CD, Love on the Dial, the Boys are working from essentially the same playbook as the Brothers: a seamless blend of immaculately played modern honky-tonk and country soul, delivered with high style and untouchable chops. Fronted by Texas legend Mike Barfield and featuring steel-guitar ace Dave Biller, Love on the Dial delivers 10 originals and four cover songs that play like a jukebox full of future hits.

The cohesion and breadth of the band is evident right from the opening track, a cover of Stephen Bruton's "Bluebonnet Blue" that mixes country and rock like a well-made cocktail. Honky-tonk numbers like "Lovers Prison" and "Special" are barroom ready, and the country weeper "40 Acres" hits all the right melancholy notes.

The biggest difference between the Stone River Boys and the Hacienda Brothers is the funk factor: Barfield is a true-blue country-funk hellion, and "The Struggle" and "Boomerang" are as funky as Texas gets. The pure country-soul classic "Love on the Dial" sounds like a Solomon Burke hit.

Kudos to Dave Gonzalez for his exceptional production; every track is burnished to country-soul perfection. Stone River Boys have arrived fully formed with Love on the Dial.

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