Loser’s Paradise ain’t groundbreaking, ain’t gonna be heard on country radio and might not even be heard outside of one’s own CD player, but I’ll be damned if I don’t go back to it time and time again. There’s something so pure, small and intimate about Chris Gaffney’s latest that makes it irresistible to anyone with a twang in their veins.
While not the most mighty vocalist, the expressive, raw-throated Gaffney is an everyman country singer who knocks out tones and emotional passages as if he were an old-timer, especially so on the booming “See The Big Man Cry” and the weepy, George Jones-ish “Glasshouse”. His greatest strength, though, is his musical vision: He possesses an ability to genre-hop without stumbling or sounding forced. There’s the sunbaked Tex-Mex of “The Eyes of Roberto Duran”, the stomping Cajun tune “East of Houston, West of Baton Rouge”, and many a breezy hillbilly, country and swing turn.
The most ambitious moment is “Cowboys to Girls”, AM-radio soul from another generation that conjures up American Graffiti-esque images of cars parked at makeout points overlooking city lights, and does so tenderly, romantically and, for the most part, without being too corny. Stunning, gorgeous accompanying vocals by Lucinda Williams definitely help fuel this fire. Other guests include Rosie Flores, Jim Lauderdale and Dale Watson, but none overshadow this being anything but a Gaffney effort. Even the presence of Dave Alvin, patron saint of the Los Angeles roots scene, as producer of the album and contributor of two songs, remains but a side note to this totally cohesive, totally happening disc.