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Lone Justice: This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983

Doug Collette By

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After The Byrds went to Nashville and The Flying Burritos Brothers startled LA with their suits from Nudie's, but before there was alternative country as founded by Uncle Tupelo, there was cowpunk in the stylized form of the Long Ryders, but more organically as portrayed by Lone Justice. With three-quarters of its twelve tracks previously unreleased, the music within The Vaught Tapes 1983 is flush with the confidence of a group that not only knows their roots, but how close they are to transcending them.

This Is Lone Justice precedes Lone Justice's debut on Geffen Records by two years and captures the foursome unfettered by marketing plays in the form of Tom Petty's "Ways to be Wicked" (the high profile cover on their debut album that, along with the polish applied by producer Jimmy Iovine, camouflaged the earthy charm of the quartet): Lone Justice's effervescent sense of purpose reduces the sameness of some numbers to a minor annoyance.

In fact, Lone Justice was nothing if not brave. This half- hour plus of two-track recordings, boasting just enough fidelity from the recordings of engineer David Vaught, (after whom this archive title has been named), juxtaposes dyed-in-the-wool country covers like George Jones' "Nothing Can Stop My Loving You" and Merle Haggard's "Working Man's Blues" with the band's rearrangements of traditionals such as "The World Is Not My Home" and originals such as "Dust Bowl Depression Time."

The latter, composed by rhythm guitarist Maria McKee, whose over-emphasized profile eventually would capsize the group, hearkens to musical and lyrical themes of contemporary country music of the time that, in turn, reaches back to its sources in the Appalachian Mountains and Hank Williams. The vocal tradeoffs between McKee and lead guitarist Ryan Hedgecock, as on "Jackson," echo a popular arrangement in the genre of the time (one prominent practitioner of which, fan of the band Dolly Parton, offers a verbal tribute on the CD liner), while the clipped rhythmic hustle of bassist Marvin Etzioni's "The Grapes of Wrath" solidify Lone Justice style rather than turn it redundant.

The latter composer came into the band after its original formation, but as noted in Chris Morris' comprehensive essay covering Lone Justice's timeline, his formal entry into the quartet encouraged not just their confidence in self-composed material like Hedgecock's "When Love Comes Home To Stay," but a democratic dynamic within the lineup that allows the author to sing lead while McKee sang affecting accompaniment in both counterpoint and harmony.

Rather than nurture the group's virtues, Lone Justice's subsequent collaboration with a major label burdened them with the baggage of hype that, by unduly inflating expectations of the band, effectively weighed down their artistic ascension. This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes 1983, however, consists of an un-self-conscious self-portrait of a band whose own influence on contemporary country rock and roll may, with this title, justifiably begin growing greater than it is.

Track Listing: Nothing Can Stop My Loving You
; Jackson
; Soap, Soup and Salvation
; The Grapes of Wrath
; Dustbowl Depression Time
; Rattlesnake Mama
; Vigilante
; Working Man’s Blues
; Cactus Rose
; When Love Comes Home to Stay
; Cottonbelt
; This World Is Not My Home.

Personnel: Maria McKee: rhythm guitar; vocals; Ryan Hedgecock: lead guitar; vocals; Marvin Etzioni: bass; vocals; Don Heffington: drums.

Title: This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983 | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Omnivore Recordings

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