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Have You Heard Hacienda?


Hacienda on the rise: the cover of the band's new record

On a hot Thursday evening, Hacienda rolled into Memphis to open for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Minglewood Hall. After they left the stage and the lights went back up, the people could have left and gotten their money’s worth.

Blues, soul, rock, and pop can all be heard here in a young band that hasn’t been out very long. Both of their albums, Big Red and Barbacoa, released this past April, and 2008’s Loud is the Night, were both produced extremely well by the Black KeysDan Auerbach. They recorded the albums in his private Akron, Ohio studio, and most recently, they backed him on his solo jaunt as the Fast Five. The sound on Hacienda’s two records is deep, the harmonies are spot on, the organs are melodic, and there’s so much reverb on the guitars that the first note could possibly still be heard by the last; this is the way that rock and roll should sound.

Rock and roll has a bad name nowadays; usually, “dead” is the common description. The Nocturnals are a great band, but Hacienda has something different. The four of them are relatives, and they play a mean blend of smokin’, Texas rock and roll that has only caught on a few times in the genre’s fabled history (Ritchie Valens, Los Lobos, and Los Lonely Boys are fine examples). When that music is combined with the groove of the music coming out of Memphis and Chicago from the 1950’s and ‘60’s, and seasoned with the breathy harmonies of West Coast bands like the Beach Boys in their prime, it can only be a matter of time before people look up and notice. When I spoke with guitarist and singer Dante Schwebel over the phone, he said that the Memphis Stax sound was one of the biggest influences on the band. “If it wasn’t for Booker T. and the MG’s, we wouldn’t be a band right now,” he says. “We learned to play music by listening to Booker T. and Steve Cropper and Sam and Dave.”

These comments are most evident on their new record, Big Red and Barbacoa. Each side ends with a grooving instrumental, titled “Big Red” and “Barbacoa” respectively, and both of the tracks sound like they could have been recorded at Stax in the mid to late-‘60’s. Elsewhere, “I Keep Waiting” and “Hound Dog” sound like leftover gems from the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds sessions. But the band is at their best on songs like “Who’s Heart Are You Breaking Now” and “Mama’s Cookin’,” where they just play hard-edged Texas (and Memphis) rock and roll like it should be played. They brought that to Memphis last Thursday evening. They even added a jolt to the Nocturnals set during their encore for the show closing (and tour closing) rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” Hopefully the next time they come through town, they’ll be headlining at Minglewood.


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