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CD Review: The Man of Somebody's Dreams: A Tribute to the Songs of Chris Gaffney 

The Deal: Chris Gaffney had one of the most distinctive voices in music. With his own band The Cold Hard Facts, touring with Dave Alvin or as The Hacienda Brothers with Dave Gonzales, Gaffney's sound combined the best of country and soul. This record was meant to help Chris Gaffney's family with bills from his battle with liver cancer, but the disease took him so fast the record ended up being a posthumous tribute.

The Good: "Lift your leg a little bit higher when you're running around with the big old dogs," Joe Ely howls on "Lift Your Leg," capturing the spirit of Gaffney while sounding an awful lot like Billy Joe Shaver. Boz Scaggs and Big Sandy's contributions are virtual clones of Gaffney's vocal style, but producer and friend Dan Penn ("Dark End Of The Street," "Do Right Woman," "I'm Your Puppet," "Cry Like a Baby," "A Woman Left Lonely" and "Sweet Inspiration,") who dubbed Gaffney's vocal style Western soul, turns in a performance on "I'm So Proud" that's so Gaffney it's chilling. Big Sandy and Los Straitjackets tear the house down with their version of "Silent Partner." Freddy Fender proves he's still the best Tex-Mex weeper in the biz on "The Gardens." Sounding like Dale Watson channeling a young Johnny Cash, James McMurty opens up a barrel of whup ass on the roadhouse rocker "Fight (Tonight's The Night)." It's a great record, one that'll probably top my list this year.

The Bad: It's such a shame that Gaffney isn't here to hear these artists striving to be him, and in doing so, turning in some of the best performances of their careers.

The Verdict: I'd rather hear Gaffney do these songs, but, since that's no longer possible, this is the next best thing.

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