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Various Artists

The Man of Somebody's Dreams: The Songs of Chris Gaffney – 2009 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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When accordionist Chris Gaffney lost his battle with liver cancer last year, the immense void he left in his passing rippled through the music community like the concentric circles from a thrown stone into a glassy pond. Gaffney was a solo artist, one of the Hacienda Brothers, a member of Dave Alvin's Guilty Men and a songwriter with an immense reputation among his musical peers.

The roll call is a who's who of contemporary roots music and a potent testament to the friendships that Gaffney made along his musical path. Joe Ely does a spirited version of Lift Your Leg, Los Lobos smolders on the title track, Peter Case tears through Six Nights a Week, The Iguanas swing and sway with Tex Mex abandon on Get Off My Back Lucy and Alejandro Escovedo invests the post-Viet Nam ballad 1968 with a palpable heartbreak.

Two of the most moving moments are Alvin's very personal dedication on Artesia, and the closing track provided by Gaffney himself on his final recording, his prescient and ironic reading of The Guitars of My Dead Friends. Although Nashville routinely rejected Gaffney as a songwriter, the illustrious guest list (further including Calexico, James McMurtry, Robbie Fulks, Big Sandy & Los Straitkackets, John Doe and Boz Scaggs) and devastating performances are solid evidence of Chris Gaffney's talent and, perhaps most importantly, his enormous creative spirit.