Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys has played a big part in Hacienda’s story to date — he discovered the San Antonio-based band when they passed him a demo CD at a club gig, he produced their first two albums, and recruited them to serve as his backing band for a solo tour. But while musicians usually step away from their protégés and give them some breathing room with the passage of time, Auerbach has done just the opposite on Hacienda’s third album, Shakedown. This time, Auerbach not only produced the sessions, he co-wrote the songs with the members of Hacienda, and while the band’s retro-pop vision and Southwestern soul came through loud and clear on their early recordings, all of that’s a bit muffled on Shakedown. To the surprise of no one, Shakedown recalls nothing as much as the Black Keys, especially in the thick, distorted bottom end and the funkier, blues-based melodic figures that dominate many of the tunes, while the band’s fascination with the Beach Boys has faded into the background. Of course, Auerbach knows a talented band when he hears one, and there’s no arguing that Hacienda have made a solid album under his direction; on songs like “Let Me Go,” “Savage,” and “Don’t Keep Me Waiting,” Hacienda may make like the Black Keys, but they sound more subtle and limber than Auerbach’s own version of this sound. Abraham Villanueva’s keyboards and Dante Schwebel’s guitar are sweet, passionate, and full of heart, while bassist Rene Villanueva and drummer Jaime Villanueva are a rock-solid and soulful rhythm section. And when Hacienda’s own personality shines through on “Natural Life,” “You Just Don’t Know,” and “Pilot in the Sky,” they sound just as satisfying as they did on their first two albums. Hacienda have certainly benefited from having a famous and talented friend in their corner, but as good as Shakedown is, it suggests that it’s high time these guys found another producer — or maybe started doing studio work by themselves while they still have ideas of their own.
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