Release Date: Jan 14, 2014
Record label: Omnivore
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Roots Rock, Country-Rock, Punk/New Wave, Cowpunk
When Lone Justice exploded onto the L.A. club scene in 1983, plenty of folks expected them to become one of the biggest bands in the nation within a matter of months. The combination of Maria McKee's vocals (which suggested she could be Dolly Parton's little sister gone wild in the big city), Ryan Hedgecock's guitar (a blazing fusion of country, rockabilly and punk influences), Marvin Etzioni's bass (who anchored the melodies with his loping, rock-solid bottom end), and Don Heffington's drumming (some of the most profound shuffles ever captured by recording equipment) was joyously combustible, and everyone from Tom Petty to Dolly Parton stepped up to see them deliver the message on-stage in their hometown.
Two years before the country rock band released their debut album on Geffen Records in 1985, they recorded a dozen tracks to tape with engineer David Vaught in California. The band had blazed their way through a gaggle of sold out shows as music journalist Chris Morris outlines in the set’s accompanying notes. Their next step was to see if they could bottle that live lightning in a studio setting.
They did their best stuff before they ever had an album out. Prior to the age of artists uploading their first bedroom demos to YouTube, this kind of blather was typically unverifiable, the refrain of poseur purists who just may have been drunk when they caught that promising opening set or basement show. But with certain bands, there’s always been a ring of truth to these claims, and, in this age of labels dedicated to saving every last tape from the vault, we can judge for ourselves.
Twelve songs recorded straight to two-track, the adrenalized country music on "This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983" captures a fiery band at the beginning of its impressive run. The L.A. country rock band, birthed by vocalist Maria McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock, is best known for its run of near-misses (despite being managed by a young Jimmy Iovine) in the mid-'80s, but before signing with Geffen Records it buzzed through town on the wings of McKee's soprano.
When was the last time you heard Lone Justice? Well, that’s too long. Cynics might argue that’s a bold statement to make about such an artistically compromised band (or so goes the legend). but the beauty of the L.A. band’s pair of studio records is that its inherent talent shone through the 80s studio gloss, even on the lushly produced Shelter.