Posts Tagged ‘Lone Justice’

Record Player, Disc, Multimedia, Music

The National return with I Am Easy To Find, there’s black vinyl, indies only clear vinyl 2xLP and deluxe 3xLP pressed on 3 different colours.
New black midi 12″ arrives on Rough Trade.
Brand new 12″ from Interpol.  Limited Dinked Edition of the new album from Black Peaches (featuring Rob Smoughton of Hot Chip). This version is pressed on teal vinyl with an exclusive 7″ and a signed print.
Third Man reissue the long out of print second album by The Raconteurs.
Institute return with Readjusting The Locks on bourbon coloured vinyl, via Sacred Bones.
slowthai unleashes his debut album, limited white vinyl pressing.
Two new David Bowie releases, Boys Keep Swinging 7″ picture disc and the nice Clareville Demos 7″ box set.
Excellent new compilation on Anthology, Sad About The Times, full of 70s psych jammers.

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The National –  I Am Easy to Find

I Am Easy To Find is the band’s eighth studio album and the follow-up to 2017’s Grammy®-award winning release Sleep Well Beast. A companion short film with the same name will also be released with music by The National and inspired by the album. The film was directed by Academy Award-nominated director Mike Mills (20th Century Women, Beginners), and starring Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander. Mills, along with the band, is credited as co-producer of the album, which was mostly recorded at Long Pond, Hudson Valley, NY with additional sessions in Paris, Berlin, Cincinnati, Austin, Dublin, Brooklyn and more far flung locations. The album features vocal contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle and more.

As the album’s opening track, You Had Your Soul With You, unfurls, it’s so far, so National: a digitally manipulated guitar line, skittering drums, Matt Berninger’s familiar baritone, mounting tension. Then around the 2:15 mark, the true nature of I Am Easy To Find announces itself: The racket subsides, strings swell, and the voice of long-time David Bowie bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey booms out—not as background vocals, not as a hook, but to take over the song. Elsewhere it’s Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, or Sharon Van Etten, or Mina Tindle or Kate Stables of This Is the Kit, or varying combinations of them. The Brooklyn Youth Choir, whom Bryce Dessner had worked with before. There are choral arrangements and strings on nearly every track, largely put together by Bryce in Paris—not a negation of the band’s dramatic tendencies, but a redistribution of them.

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Interpol – A Fine Mess

 

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Olden Yolk – Living Theatre

The musical duo of Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer released their debut album as Olden Yolk last year, an alluring concoction of hypnagogic folk and kosmiche rhythms, expanding and refining Butler’s work in his former band Quilt toward a more focused direction. Living Theatre is the follow up to that eponymous debut and more than lives up to its promise.

The songs on Living Theatre were written and recorded during a heavy time of transition and upheaval for the duo, with personal tragedies and a big move from their NYC home to a warmer climate in Los Angeles coloring the album’s inception. Thematically Living Theatre tunes seem to be about how humans react to the ways life is colored by both fate and the consequences of the conscious and unconscious decisions we make. Musically, the duo’s songwriting has gelled into a unified front, relying more on the subtle shifts of melody and rhythm than a barrage of chord changes; Living Theatre’s hooks lap at your feet like a babbling brook, rather than bowl you over like violent waves. The refinement in tunes like Castor and Pollux, Grand Palais and first single Cotton and Cane points to a new frontier for the group; soaring skyward toward the emotionally textural plateaus of trailblazers like The Go-Betweens or Yo La Tengo. There’s a discernible romantic feel to tunes like Violent Days or Distant Episode’s lush arrangements with Shaffer in particular finding her own voice here; poetic, abstract and expressive. Living Theatre showcases a band breaking free from it’s chrysalis, and embracing its next phase of evolution.

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Alex Lahey – The Best Of Club

On her sophomore LP, The Best of Luck Club, 26-year-old Melbourne, Australia native Alex Lahey navigates the pangs of generational ennui with the pint half-full and a spot cleared on the bar stool next to her. Self-doubt, burn out, break-ups, mental health, moving in with her girlfriend, vibrators: The Best of Luck Club showcases the universal language of Lahey’s sharp songwriting, her propensity for taking the minute details of the personal and flipping it public through anthemic pop-punk. Lahey’s 2017 debut I Love You Like a Brother encases Lahey’s knack for writing a killer hook and her acute sense of humor delivered via a slacker-rock package and, in a way, The Best of Luck Club picks up where that record left off. Lahey co-produced the album alongside acclaimed engineer and producer Catherine Marks (Local Natives, Wolf Alice, Manchester Orchestra), and dives headfirst into a broader spectrum of both emotion and sound through polished, arena pop-punk in the vein of Paramore with the introspective sheen of Alvvays or Tegan and Sara. Here, Lahey documents the highest highs and the lowest lows of her life to date. After a whirlwind of global touring in support of breakout debut I Love You Like a Brother, Lahey wrote the bulk of her follow-up in Nashville during 12-hour days of songwriting. There, she found the inspiration for The Best of Luck Club ís concept: the dive bar scene and its genuine energy.”Whether you’ve had the best day of your life or the worst day of your life, you can just sit up at the bar and turn to the person next to you – who has no idea who you are – and have a chat. And the response that you generally get at the end of the conversation is, ‘Best of luck, so The Best of Luck Club is that place.

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Lone Justice – Live At The Palomino 1983

Previously unissued live performance from October 22nd, 1983. Recorded at Los Angeles’ iconic Palomino club. New liners from the band’s Marvin Etzioni and Ryan Hedgecock. Located in North Hollywood, The Palomino hosted Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, and many more classic country acts. Later, George Harrison, Elvis Costello, and Green Day played there. It was even featured in Every Which Way But Loose, Hooper, and even CHiPs. But, in the early ’80s, it was a haven for “cow-punk” acts like Lone Justice. Live At the Palomino, 1983 features 12 tracks from the early Lone Justice line-up consisting of Maria McKee, Ryan Hedgecock, Marvin Etzioni, and Don Willens. Songs from their yet to be issued debut are coupled with classic country covers, and songs which have appeared on various collections throughout the years – but never with this live power from this L.A. landmark. Packaging features photos and new notes from Etzioni and Hedgecock, and is issued with full cooperation from the band. Step back into the time when Lone Justice was the band to see, way out in the dusty valley. A timeless performance from a band that helped define a genre: Lone Justice – Live At The Palomino, 1983. They still are the light.

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The Doors – Stockholm ‘68

The Doors, live at Konserthuset, Stockholm on 20th September 1968 The Doors finally visited Europe in September 1968, playing to rapturous audiences in the UK, Germany, Holland, Denmark and Sweden. Many fans agree that they were at their peak on this tour, despite Jim Morrison’s condition being unpredictable from gig to gig. This release contains the final date of the tour, originally broadcast by Sveriges Radio. It includes rare performances of Mack The Knife, Love Street and You’re Lost Little Girl as well as familiar staples of their set, and is presented here together with background notes and images.

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Ronnie Lane – Just For A Moment: Music 1973-1997

This box includes Ronnie Lane’s 4 solo albums – Anymore For Anymore (and singles), Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance, One For the Road and the cruelly underrated See Me. In addition it features tracks from Ronnie’s Mahoney’s Last Standalbum with Ron Wood and Rough Mix with Pete Townshend. The final disc of the set focuses on Ronnie’s time in the US with live highlights and studio tracks never previously released. The set also featured lots of rare and unreleased material – be prepared to here fantastic cover versions of The Wanderer, Rocket’ 69and The Joint Is Jumpin’as well as unheard Ronnie compositions plus live recordings, tracks for the BBC and highlights from a legendary Rockpalast concert. The set is curated by long time musical associate of Ronnie’s, Slim Chancer musician Charlie Hart. Comprehensive sleevenotes focus on Ronnie the musician, the songwriter, the collaborator and split the post ’73 period into three distinct parts. Writers are Paolo Hewitt, Kris Needs and Kent Benjamin covering Ronnie’s Austin years.

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Traffic – The Studio Albums 1967-74

50 years after Steve Winwood jumped ship from chart toppers The Spencer Davis Group and quit the bright lights in favour of the countryside and jam sessions with Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason and Chris Wood we celebrate Traffic’s influential legacy with this stunning limited edition Island records studio collection. Boasting all 6 studio albums recorded for the label remastered from the original tapes and presented in their original and highly collectible ‘first’ Island pressing form (gatefold sleeves, pink eye labels etc), the set also includes a related and super rare facsimile promo poster for each album.

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David Bowie – Clareville Grove Demos

Following on from Spying Through A Keyhole, in early 1969 at his flat in Clareville Grove, London, David Bowie with John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson continued to demo Space Oddity and other tracks. This live demo tape session is released as a 7″ vinyl singles box set of six home demos, four of which are previously unreleased recordings. As with the Spying Through A Keyhole vinyl singles box set, the design of each single label is presented to reflect the way David sent many of his demos to publishers and record companies, featuring his own handwritten song titles on EMIDISC acetate labels with cover and print photos by David’s then manager Ken Pitt taken in the Clareville Grove flat. The singles themselves are all mono and play at 45 r.p.m. Due to the nature of some of the solo home demos where Bowie accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, the recording quality isn’t always of a usual studio fidelity. This is partly due to David’s enthusiastic strumming hitting the red on a couple of the tracks, along with the limitations of the original recording equipment and tape degradation. However, the historical importance of these songs and the fact that the selections are from an archive of tracks cleared for release by Bowie, overrides this shortcoming.

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David Bowie – Boys Keep Swinging

2019 is the 40th anniversary of Lodger and first comes the latest limited 7″ picture disc from Parlophone, Boys Keep Swinging.

While originally recording the song, Bowie had hoped to capture a garage band feel with the musicians swapping instruments after a deck of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards had suggested ‘reverse roles’. So guitarist Carlos Alomar played drums and drummer Dennis Davis played bass.

The version featured on the A side is the 2017 mix by Tony Visconti from Lodger, undertaken for the A New Career In A New Townbox set, as both Tony and Bowie felt they never had the opportunity to give Lodger the mix it deserved in 1979, due to time and studio constraints.

The AA side features I Pray, Ole which was apparently recorded during the Lodger sessions, but remained unreleased until mixed by David and David Richards for inclusion as an extra track on the 1991 reissue of theLodger album. The track has been commercially unavailable since then.

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Working Mens Club – Bad Blood / Suburban Heights

Like a homage to smoke-filled vaults, aging billiard rooms and crumby packets of pork scratchings in the Working Men’s Clubs of days gone by, Todmorden-by-way of-Europe trio Syd, Jake and Giulia are about to fling open the doors of their own millennial social hub with the fresh post-punk of infectious debut single, Bad Blood / Suburban Heights. With the start-stop sound of Talking Heads, Gang of Four and Television,Bad Blood, fuses 70s post- punk with the stomp of Parquet Courts’ positivity and resonates with the start of the weekend...Syd’s half-spoken words jab through Strokes guitar lines with Mark E Smith drawl…it’s the feeling of a Saturday spent scuffing about in thrift stores and hanging out with friends.

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L’Epee – Dreams

This is the debut single release from L’Epee, the band are Emmaunelle Seigner (Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle), Anton Newcombe (The Brian Jonestown Massacre) and Lionel and Marie Liminana (The Liminanas). Recorded in Cabestany (France) and Berlin at Anton’s Cobra Studio, this three track 12” single comes in deluxe packaging and precedes the full length album released in June this year.

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Like their peers in the Los Angeles Paisley Underground movement of the '80s, the Long Ryders were a band who swore allegiance to the sounds of the '60s. Hear them at The Constellation Room this Friday!

A 1984 New York Times article on the emerging aesthetic acknowledged genre cowpunk as one of several catch-all terms critics were using to categorize the country-influenced music of otherwise unrelated punk and New Wave bands. The article briefly summarized the music’s history, at least in the United States, saying that in the early 1980’s, several punk and New Wave bands had begun collecting classic country records, and soon thereafter began performing high-tempo cover versions of their favorite songs, and that new bands had also formed around the idea.

By 1984, there were dozens of bands in both the U.S. and England “personalizing country music, several U.S. bands: X, the Blasters, Meat Puppets, Rank and File (playing “an updated version of 1960’s country-rock”), Jason and the Scorchers (with “authentically deep country roots”), and Violent Femmes (at that time incorporating “mountain banjo, wheezing saxophones, scraping fiddle, twanging jew’s harp, and ragged vocal choruses”)

Cowpunk was a catch-all term that critics had come up with to categorize a number of non-mainstream bands and artists who were heavily influenced by country music, but also parlayed their love of blues, roots, and rockabilly, while still keeping their punk, new wave, and/or psychedelic sensibilities close at hand. This emergence was, more or less, a reaction to the over commercialization of synth pop and punk evolving into hardcore. There was also a disdain for the current state of contemporary country music that had become bland, boring, and a hollow shell of its former self. The collective artists in the cowpunk movement were gifted songwriters that were appealing to rural intellectuals as well as finding a home on college radio. There was quite a number of bands that joined the ranks, but due to geographics (among other things), only a select few truly arose out of obscurity where major labels awaited, hoping for the next big cash-in.

The Long Ryders: Rising Phoenix-like out of the the Los Angeles-based band the Unclaimed, the Long Ryders were a major force in the Paisley Underground movement. Mixing their record collections of Gram Parsons, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Beatles, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, The Ryders birthed a unique, jangle pop sound but with an edge that would forever influence the alt-country scene that’s felt even today. Releasing a debut EP titled “10-5-60” in 1983 (and suffering a personnel change), the most well-known line up of the band stabilized afterwords with Sid Griffin, Stephen McCarthy, Tom Stevens, and Greg Sowders. In 1984 they released “Native Sons”, followed by “State Of Our Union” in 1985, and “Two Fisted Tales” in 1987.

Although the band was getting airplay on college radio, they weren’t getting the necessary support from MTV, which was a virtual kiss of death. The viewings of their videos were scarce at best, elbowed out of the way for more Top 40 friendly faces that weren’t sporting mutton chops and suede vests.

This brilliant chart by my pal Pete Frame tells you who the Long Ryders were better than any biog you will ever read.

The group disbanded in 1987, and their reunions have been sparse. Their released output since their demise has been obligatory “Best Of” comps and live recordings. All of the members have stayed active in the music industry in some capacity, including Griffin who has fronted the British-American bluegrass band the Coal Porters since 1991.

Rank and File, I had zero knowledge of this band with a fairly (in my opinion) punk name. The review of “Long Gone Dead” was vague, to say the least, but nevertheless, I made a mental note to look more into this group. In the pre-internet days, this wasn’t going to be done with ease. I perused the cassette section and I found my purchase of the week. I knew I was gambling here, but it had two things in its favour: One, it had been reviewed in Thrasher Magazine, and the other factor, it was on Slash Records, the groundbreaking label out of Los Angeles, CA that was one of the epitomes of musical cool, up there with SST and IRS Records. But something happened on the way to punk rock Valhalla, and it would change the way I would view (or listen) to American music forever.

For some three-chord deliverance, the opening track “Long Gone Dead” was over, I had to focus. Next came “I’m An Old Old Man”, which honestly, didn’t make me feel any better. But by the third song “Sound Of the Rain”, something clicked, and I ventured into an aurally voyeuristic experience that had me rewinding back to the beginning, over and over again. Then I gathered up the courage to listen to the entire recording, front to back, amazed that I didn’t wear it out. Finally, I was converted. But first, I had to find out what this was, because it wasn’t country music in the “Swingin’” sense or in any sense of the genre at all. This was something special, and it was called “Cowpunk”.

Rank and File: Here’s where it all began for me, Rank and File was the musical brain trust of brothers Chip and Tony Kinman who formed the band out of the ashes of their former California-based project The Dils. After migrating to Austin, TX, they hooked up with ex-Nuns member Alejandro Escovedo and released their first album “Sundown” on Slash Records in 1982. Their second release “Long Gone Dead” saw them institute more use of steel guitar and fiddle, and parlaying their love for traditional country music, they covered Lefty Frizzelle’s “I’m An Old Old Man”. For their self-titled swan song, the band went with a more pop-oriented, yet still twangy, sound to try and capture more commercial interest. Unfortunately, it never happened, and the band was dissolved. Afterwords, the Kinmans formed the synth pop experiment Blackbird, then ventured into the alt-country waters with Cowboy Nation.

Jason & the Scorchers: If there was ever to be a symbol of the movement as a whole, then this band should be the one holding the flag. Formed in Nashville, TN in 1981 by Jason Ringenberg, this Molotav Cocktail powerhouse was an amalgamation of ’70s punk bands like the Clash and the Damned fused with the traditional country music stylings of Hank Williams. It didn’t take long for the band to gel and kick out a debut EP fittingly titled “Reckless Country Soul” in 1982 where they paid homage to Hank and even attacked Jerry Falwell within the four tracks. A second EP titled “Fervor” was released the following year, with the video for their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie” getting rotated regularly on MTV and giving them much needed national exposure.

However, commercial success kept eluding Jason and the Scorchers, as rock stations deemed them “too country” and country music stations found them to be “too rock ‘n’ roll”. Two full length albums, “Lost and Found” and “Still Standing” were released to little fanfare, and their label, EMI, dropped them. Going on a three year hiatus, the band returned with “Thunder and Fire” a more heavier and metal-influenced album in 1990 that got mixed and negative reviews. Feeling defeated, the band temporarily fell apart, with Ringenberg going the solo route, even taking on an alter-ego called “Farmer Jason”, Since 1995, Ringenberg has released ten albums to date with various line-ups of The Scorchers, and has seven solo releases under his belt, while original member Warner Hodges has also released solo work and is currently playing in Drivin N Cryin.

The Beat Farmers: Formed in 1983 by the charismatic Country Dick Montana, this San Diego-based group would also come to define the true meaning of cowpunk, with its rockin’ stew of swamp rock, Americana, and rockabilly. Included in the original line-up was Jerry Raney, Rolle Love, and Buddy Blue. In 1984 they won a Battle Of the Bands competition in their hometown, gaining them a cult following throughout Southern California. That same year, they signed a one-off record deal with Rhino Records for what would become their most well-known album, “Tales Of the New West”, released in 1985. One of the singles off this release was “Happy Boy” which received much support and airplay, giving them national exposure, but also pigeonholing them as a novelty act. After a stint in England to record the “Glad ‘N’ Greasy” EP (produced by Graham Parker) for Demon Records, they signed a seven album deal with Curb Records which wasn’t the harmonious relationship they expected. Fed up with working under Curb’s thumb, Buddy Blue quit the band, and was replaced by Joey Harris. The band soldiered on with the label, releasing the single “Make It Last”, and dabbling in side projects and movie soundtrack contributions. Becoming increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with Curb, they found a way out of their contract in 1993, and began releasing albums for the Austin, TX-based label Sector 2. Tragically, Country Dick died of a heart attack during a performance in British Columbia on November 8, 1995. Three days later, the remaining members dissolved the band, eventually going forth and getting involved in other musical projects such as Raney-Blue, the Farmers, the Flying Putos, and Joey Harris and the Mentals, among others. Sadly, Buddy Blue died of a heart attack on April 2, 2006.

Green On Red: Formed in the Tuscon, AZ punk scene in 1979 as the Serfers, Green On Red made their move to Los Angeles and quickly became associated with the Paisley Underground. This heavily psychedelic-influenced four piece included Dan Stuart, Jack Waterson, Van Christian, and eventually Alex MacNicol. In 1982, they self-released an EP known at the time as “Two Bibles”, followed by them getting signed to Slash Records in 1983 to release their first full-length album “Gravity Talks”. Meshing twangy guitars with Ray Manzarek-style keyboard playing, the band sounded like a country version of the Doors, with some Velvet Underground influences, yet still able to churn out tunes that wouldn’t be out of place on a honky tonk jukebox. In 1985, San Francisco-based guitar player Chuck Prophet joined the band for the “Gas Food Lodging” album on Enigma Records, after which MacNicol would be replaced by Keith Mitchell on drums.

After “The Killer Inside Me” was released in 1987, the band called it quits. However, Dan Stuart began collaborating with Prophet in 1989, and the duo released “Here Come the Snakes” under the Green On Red name. Three more albums were released with their swan song “Too Much Fun” getting released in 1992. Since that time, the band has participated in numerous reunions under different line-ups.

Lone Justice: Fronted by the gifted and talented Maria McKee and backed by the tight unit of Ryan Hedgecock, Marvin Etzioni, and Don Heffington, Lone Justice’s blend of country rock, rockabilly, and punk, made them a popular draw on the Los Angeles bar scene. So much so, that Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fame was a frequent guest at their gigs for like-minded jamming. Gaining a reputation as a band that you had to get out and see and exposure in music periodicals brought them to the attention of Linda Ronstadt who helped them get signed to Geffen Records. They released their self-titled debut in 1985, followed by the single and video of “Ways To Be Wicked”, co-written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell. A second single, “Sweet, Sweet Baby” was released, along with a support slot on a tour with U2, but with all of this going for them, the album just wasn’t selling. Even though critics loved it and placed it on their “Best Of” polls, the public wasn’t buying it. In the wake of this disaster, McKee’s bandmates jumped ship and she was almost forced to call the band “A-Lone Justice”. Hiring an all-new line-up, the new Justice hit the studio with E-Streeter Little Steven Van Zandt for the second album “Shelter”, which fared worse than its predecessor, abandoning the band’s original roots rock sound for a more typical pop/rock feel with synthesizers and drum machines, foreign objects to bands of this caliber. With its dismal sales, “Shelter” became the band’s Waterloo, and McKee broke up the band. Eventually, she would release solo material.

Finally It would be remiss if I didn’t mention Los Lobos. Although they weren’t cowpunk, they were and still are, champions and survivors of the music industry and true representatives of the roots rock movement. Having made one of their first public appearances in Los Angeles opening for Public Image, Ltd., in 1980, they were gathering enough attention that by the time they released their EP “…And A Time To Dance”, the 50,000 copies sold out. Now possessing some capital, they hit the road and toured all over the U.S. Their clout got them back in the studio in 1984 for their breakthrough album “How Will the Wolf Survive?”, released on Slash Records. With the release of the single and video of “Will the Wolf Survive?”, the band was making a statement on their struggles trying to gain success in the States while maintaining their Mexican heritage. After releasing their next album “By the Light Of the Moon” in 1987, they contributed several songs to the film and soundtrack of “La Bamba”, which the title track hit the number one spot on the singles chart. Los Lobos has since continued to tour with a diverse mix of artists, released numerous albums and singles, appeared in films, and all along the way, they’ve stayed true to their roots. Will the wolf survive? They sure as hell did…

There were scores of other bands that either flirted with or were wholeheartedly part of the cowpunk family tree. Now they would be more commonly associated with the “roots rock” banner than cowpunk, which today sounds antiquated to most rock historians. The Blasters, the Gun Club, the Cramps, the Del Fuegos, X, the Lazy Cowgirls, Blood On the Saddle, Mojo Nixon and others are held in the highest regard to music buffs that enjoy true American rock ‘n’ roll.

Interestingly enough, two performers who came along in the midst of the cowpunk movement have been churning out successful albums throughout the years since they were categorized in this genre. Dwight Yoakam was viewed as a “punk in cowboy boots”, brandishing a traditional Bakersfield sound on his “Guitars, Cadillacs,” album in 1986, earning him a shunning from country radio stations who found him “too traditional”. And Steve Earle, who felt more comfortable around punks as opposed to rednecks was also viewed with disdain with his 1986 album “Guitar Town”, which was considered “too rock”.

Also check out The Blasters, X/The Knitters, Danny and Rusty, Dwight Yoakam, Violent Femmes and Rosie Flores,  

Lone Justice their second album “Shelter” finds the band abandoning the cowpunk image of their debut in favor of a more polished ’80s sound. What they came up with is rather a mishmash of material that only points the way for Maria McKee to don a solo outfit and carry on alone. Shelter falls into the trap of a record company dictating how a disc should sound no matter what might happen to the group producing it. There are strong cuts here — most notably, “I Found Love” (a real ’80s-sounding product), “Wheels,” and “Dixie Storms” (which foretells Maria McKee’s future in music) all have something to recommend them. The rest falls into the trap of songs produced to fulfill obligations.

There’s lots of talk about which LJ band or album was better. The original band may have been the best, but really, when they were live, how could anyone take their eyes off the girl fronting the band!? When the electric got plugged in and the vibe hit her, there wasn’t anything like her. She said once she had a big voice from screaming over the band. What she does is so far from screaming! She just has some kind of voice!

Lone Justice was a group not unlike Big Brother & the Holding Company, who had a great female lead singer and focal point along with competent sidemen. Once the record execs ventured to guess that McKee would sell more on her own, they urged her to jettison the band, which she did after Shelter. Such is life in the record biz

With the passage of time, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Lone Justice were a great band who did their finest work in the recording studio quite some time before they put out their debut album. While the two LPs Lone Justice released in their lifetime — 1985’s Lone Justice and 1986’s Shelter — were both burdened with misguided production choices and too many guest musicians at the behest of their label, Geffen Records, the 2014 release This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, from 1983 captured them live to two-track in a no-frills demo session. The Vaught Tapes documented the interplay between Maria McKee’s stellar vocals and the band’s twangy but powerful take on rock & roll with a energetic simplicity their albums did not, and four years later, Omnivore Recordings have brought out The Western Tapes, 1983, a six-song EP that gives Lone Justice’s first demo tape a public airing for the first time.

By the time guitarist Ryan Hedgecock and singing force of nature Maria McKee got together in 1982, that scene’s scope had already expanded beyond hardcore and post-punk into blues rock, rockabilly, folk, and other realms of Americana courtesy of the Blasters, X, the Gun Club, and others. In their day, Lone Justice shared the goofy genre label “cowpunk” with similarly country-besotted rock bands like Rank and File, Jason and the Scorchers, and the Long Ryders.

McKee was an 18-year-old with a giant voice and a charismatic presence that intuitively plays to the crowd even when the crowd was just Vaught and her bandmates. It’s no coincidence that Dolly Parton (who contributes an endorsement to the liner notes) was an early fan; in addition to a vocal similarity, neither can mask that personal effervescence — a joy in performing — no matter how sad the song.

There’s no missing that Lone Justice could play. Hedgecock, in particular, comes off better here than on the self-titled album, laying down intricate country-rock licks that producer Jimmy Iovine would largely bury under additional guitars and layers of organ (from Heartbreaker-on-loan Benmont Tench).

Cut in May 1983, this EP features the group’s first lineup, with McKee and guitarist/songwriter Ryan Hedgecock joined by bassist Dave Harringtonand drummer Don Willens, and if this rhythm section boasts a bit less snap than the classic lineup with Marvin Etzioni (who produced this session) and Don Heffington, this band still has an energy and freshness that are absolutely winning. Etzioni was also a more savvy producer than Lone Justice usually had behind the controls; the sound is straightforward but full-bodied, he brought out solid performances from everyone on board, and the decision to bring in David Mansfield to add fiddle and pedal steel on some of the tunes was inspired. And Maria McKee’s voice is still a thing of wonder all these years later, a pure country instrument that still has the force to sing thoroughly convincing rock & roll. One can’t help wish some smart indie label had cut a low-budget album on this band in the manner of the Blasters’ outstanding self-titled album for Slash that would have documented their heyday before Geffen got ahold of them. But between The Western Tapes and This Is Lone Justice, we now have some reasonable approximation of it, and this is great fun from a band that had a lot to offer — more than their best-known work might suggest.

thanks to allmusic for the words

Lone Justice Lead singer Maria McKee: “Barely out of her teens, she comes on with a spitfire defiance and a repertoire of yelps, growls, and shouts that are the essence of country spunk.” Three decades later, This classic debut album Lone Justice still sounds like an astonishingly precocious debut for McKee, even if the band sometimes sets up obstacles for her to leap over (she always does), and the production tilts the whole enterprise toward mainstream rock (especially on Tom Petty’s “Ways To Be Wicked”, which could be an outtake from an ’80s Heartbreakers album like Long After Dark). No matter. From the moment she steps up to the mic on the opening phrases of “East Of Eden”,  McKee is a dynamo in a lineage that includes singers like Wanda Jackson, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Linda Ronstadt when she was still in the Stone Poneys .

There the rousing Soap Soup and Salvation , playing the part of a save-my-land heroine on After The Flood, or trying to salvage a failing relationship on the touching ballad Don’t Toss Us Away  (written by her brother Bryan MacLean, who was a member of the seminal L.A. band Love) , McKee never missteps. She can break the momentum of a line, slip out for a half-spoken interjection, then fall right back into the melody, and nothing seems to rattle her. From the moment they appeared on the club circuit, the buzz on Lone Justice spread cross-country rapidly, so anticipation was high for this first album, and for their animated live shows, which often would include a take on Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane that was a twang-infused hybrid, punk-country with a touch of the Rolling Stones around the time of  Let It Bleed . Lone Justice aren’t spoken about much these days; you wonder how big they might’ve gotten if there were such a thing as “Americana” in the mid-’80s. check out this live set in 1985 at the Ritz in New York City.

The Band

Additional personnel

  • Mike Campbell  – guitar
  • Tony Gilkyson – guitar
  • Bob Glaub – bass
  • Little Steven – guitar, rhythm guitar
  • Benmont Tench – organ, piano, keyboard, background vocals