Hacienda - Big Red & Barbacoa (2010)

On 2008's debut album, 'Loud is the Night', Hacienda emphasized the ‘60s rock part of their musical formula, crafting transportingly lush harmonies reminiscent of the Beatles and Beach Boys. On this year's follow-up, 'Big Red & Barbacoa', the quartet comes to terms with its hometown roots by leaning more on the muscular grooves and buzzing amps. Both albums were produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who recognized the three Villanueva brothers--keyboardist Abraham, bassist Rene and drummer Jaime--plus cousin Dante Schwebel on guitar as fellow garage-rock disciples. Their creed: If your songs are well crafted, you can strip away all the trappings to reveal the low-budget heart of the music.

The new album's 11 original songs (credited to the whole band and supplemented only by the Everly Brothers' "You're My Girl") are extremely well crafted. The lead-off track, "Who's Heart Are You Breaking," may have a misspelled title, but it boasts a bottom as dangerous as a riptide undertow. On top is not one but two catchy guitar figures and a lazy sing-along that asks an ex-lover, "Whose heart are you breaking now?" The elements are simple but each one is so attractive and so well executed that the effect is mesmerizing, especially within the resounding echo that Auerbach has given the track.

"Apples" compares true love to fruit out of reach on a tree, and the reacher's agitation is reflected in the nervous, relentless rhythm, chanting vocals and steel-guitar solo. "Prisoner" advises a friend behind bars to "let your mind drift away" and provides the means of transportation on its hypnotic hand-clap rhythm and low-pitched guitar figure. "As You Like It" is a Mexican folk dance tune translated to overdriven amps, while "I Keep Waiting" is a classic surf number, featuring sumptuous Beach Boys harmonies with a Mexican-American accent. "Hound Dog" is not the Leiber & Stoller song but a dreamy pop tune about a jilted lover who feels like a dog but whose longing still takes the form of a chiming harpsichord, pealing slide guitar and keening tenor.

When Auerbach did a solo tour in early 2009, he took along Hacienda as both his opening act and backing band and did it again earlier this spring. You can hear Hacienda's playing chops on the new album's two instrumentals, "Big Red" and "Barbacoa," but the quartet is most interesting when they're singing about their "Younger Days" or their "Mama's Cookin'." There's something about the close vocal harmonies of a family band that you just can't beat--whether it's the Everly brothers of Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Wilson brothers of Hawthorne, California, or the Villanueva brothers of San Antonio, Texas.

Big Red & Barbacoa
Album art: 
Release date: 

1. Who's Heart Are You Breaking
2. Younger Days
3. I Keep Waiting
4. Hound Dog
5. Prisoner
6. Big Red
7. You're My Girl
8. Apples
9. As You Like It
10. Go to Get Back Home
11. Mama's Cookin
12. Barbacoa

Music label: 
Alive Records
United States
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