Top positive review
38 people found this helpful
Classic Cowpunk sees the light of day after more than 30 years
on January 19, 2014
This album, never before released save for three out of 12 tracks, brings you Lone Justice in the studio at the very beginning of their short-lived career. This was a year after the band's 1982 formation amid the Los Angeles' cowpunk scene, which included such great groups as X and The Blasters. LJ had recently started writing their own songs, but another year would pass until they landed a contract with Geffen Records, and two years would elapse before they released their first commercial LP. Despite support from the likes of Tom Petty (who wrote a song for them) and U2 (with whom they toured), they produced just two records before disbanding in 1986.
Lone Justice fused the energy of rockabilly and punk with classic country music, crowning it with the amazing vocals of Maria McKee, harmonies from guitarist Ryan Hedgecock, bass by Marvin Etzioni, and drums by Don Heffington. McKee, who went on to a long and successful solo career, was the undisputed star of the band. As Robert Hilburn wrote in the L.A. Times, she had "the vocal purity of Linda Ronstadt, the intensity of Janis Joplin and the seductiveness of Chrissie Hynde." Ronstadt herself recommended the group to Geffen; McKee also cites Dolly Parton and Exene Cervenka as strong influences.
A number of the songs that LJ performed in 1983 were covers, including the first two tracks on this CD, "Nothing Can Stop My Loving You" by George Jones and Roger Miller, and "Jackson" by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. But the next few tracks -- "Soap, Soup And Salvation (which appeared on their eponymous debut), "The Grapes of Wrath," and "Dustbowl Depression Time" -- are originals with a clear theme, as are mini-dramas like "Rattlesnake Mama" and "Cactus Rose" (later the flip side of the hit single "Ways to Be Wicked"). These songs take advantage of the powerful edge in McKee's sublime, untamed voice.
Ryan Hedgecock sings lead on the original ballad "When Love Comes Home to Stay," but all of the other songs on this recording are taken at a blistering pace and feature McKee on lead, including propulsive versions of Merle Haggard's "Working Man's Blues" and the Jim Reeves gospel tune, "This World Is Not My Home," which wraps up the album. It's an undiscovered treasure long hidden in the vaults, a raw, rootsy portrait of the music as it really sounded (two tracks, no overdubs), and a must-have for fans of Maria McKee and Lone Justice.