HACIENDA BROTHERS What’s Wrong With Right (Proper American)

The country-soul genre doesn’t get out much these days. Once you’ve tipped the Stetson to The Flying Burrito Brothers you’re kind of finished, floundering in Gram Parsons’ doomed, self-destructive wake. The Hacienda Brothers aim to buck that trend, describing themselves as “The Sound Of Western Soul”, no idle boast when you’re fortunate enough to have Southern soul legend Dan Penn in the producer’s chair.

Opener “Midnight Dream” is smooth, unruffled blue-eyed soul, except with steel(y) guitars – if Gram were still alive it wouldn’t take a great leap of imagination to envisage him kicking back to this. There’s a Stones-y swagger to “Keep It Together” – well, there would be if the Stones themselves hadn’t curdled the notion of the Stones-y swagger into such a wrinkled cliché. The Brothers revisit a pair of Penn and Oldham classics: despite an accordion solo and Chris Gaffney’s throaty, weather-whipped vocals The Box Tops’ “Cry Like A Baby” doesn’t quite escape its teen-pop roots, but a version of Percy Sledge’s “It Tears Me Up” has rather more gravitas; decked out with some almost Mariachi trumpet flourishes, it’s a better fit with Gaffney’s wounded bear-hug of a voice.

“The Last Time” barrels in like a “Grievous Angel” outtake, although the Celtic boxing narrative of “If Daddy Don’t Sing Danny Boy” is perhaps one culture clash too many for a single song. Charlie Rich’s “Rebound” becomes a zydeco romp, and the band take the Philly Soul of Gamble and Huff’s “Cowboys To Girls” on a long night drive through desert country. The country stoicism of “Life’s Little Ups And Downs”, another Charlie Rich song, sounds eerily like Lambchop: Gaffney’s staccato enunciation of the line “and over by the gate” is pure Kurt Wagner. Giving the melting pot one final stir, the closing instrumental “Son Of Saguaro” could be something out of a Morricone soundtrack for a Leone film, all warning harmonica and twangy guitar.

What’s wrong with “What’s Wrong With Right”? Nothing at all, really: if you hanker after a gentler, more reflective take on country-soul than that provided by The Flying Burritos, you’ll like it a lot.