Picks and Pans Review: Chris Gaffney

updated 03/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Chris Gaffney & the Cold Hard Facts

Gaffney, a journeyman musician who has spent the last decade as a longshoreman, has come out with a rough-hewn but artful debut album of country music.

He starts things off with a bang on the stampeding swing-and-boogie of "Lift Your Leg." (Dave Alvin, an ex-Blaster, chips in some fierce steel and electric guitar solos.) Gaffney shows off a remarkable diversity of styles with the drifting shuffle of "King o' the Blues," the sprightly Tex-Mex of "Frank's Tavern" and "Accordiana," the George Jones-like salty tears ballad of "Glass House" and the smart-stepping honky-tonk of "Lonely Mile."

All right, so Gaffney's plainspoken voice won't make him an early-entry candidate for the Country Music Hall of Fame. And his writing can get tortured, as on the sappy death-in-the-barrio "The Gardens." But his first record is refreshingly steeped in honesty and humility, exceedingly rare qualities in today's musical world. Tell you what, take some ostrich-boot cowboy like Dwight Yoakam, give him a backbreaking day job and have him play down at the Grange Hall on Saturday nights just for the pleasure of it, and this is what he might sound like. (ROM)

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