Although not quite the standout album that Mi Vida Loca is, Loser's Paradise is another consistent effort, serving up the same winning mix of country, roots rock, soul, and norteño. This time around, friend Dave Alvin handles the production, as well as providing some inspired six-string work, and contributes a couple of gems with the Cajun-flavored "East of Houston, West of Baton Rouge" and the honky tonkin' "Help You Dream." As with his other records, Gaffney's songwriting is superb, bringing hard-luck tales and characters to life with his weathered voice and keen roots sensibility. For instance, check out his George Jones-like ballad "Glasshouse," the melancholy "My Baby's Got a Dead Man's Number," and the lovely norteño number "Azulito." His cover choices also rule: Lucinda Williams duets on a wonderful version of the Intruders' 1968 soul chestnut "Cowboys to Girls," and Gaffney thoughtfully rediscovers the Ed Bruce-penned, 1964 Charlie Louvin hit "See the Big Man Cry." Gaffney plays guitar, accordion, and piano, while enlisting instrumental backing from a standout band that includes longtime Rod Stewart sideman Ian McLagan on Hammond organ and pedal steel guitarist Scott Wells. And the vocal help reads like an alternative country who's who, featuring Rosie Flores, Jim Lauderdale, Dale Watson, and Tony Villanueva (lead singer of the Derailers). A must-have for Gaffney fans, and a good introduction for new ones as well.
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AllMusic Review by Jack Leaver