BY MICHAEL TOLAND
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. Fans who wish there was a LJ studio record as stripped down as their legendary live shows can rejoice at the arrival of This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983, a live-in-the-studio demo recorded right after signing to Geffen, but before recording its self-titled debut.
Wielding a near-perfect blend of zesty C&W and punk-informed rock & roll, the young quartet blazes through a set of originals and favorite covers, attacking each with the glee of a band turned loose in the studio for the first time. (It was actually the second time, but the energy is the same.) “Dustbowl Depression Time,” “Cottonbelt” and “Soap, Soup and Salvation” (which would be re-recorded for the debut) put singer Maria McKee’s interest in Depression-era America atop frisky country rock, while “Cactus Rose,” her co-write with bassist Marvin Etzioni, and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock’s “When Love Comes Home to Stay” ease up on the tempo a bit but up the melodicism. Covers of George Jones’ “Nothing Can Stop My Loving You,” Merle Haggard’s “Working Man’s Blues” (intro’ed by the skillet-licking original instrumental “Vigilante”) and the traditional “This World is Not My Home” display a perfect balance of reverence and irreverence for the classic country and bluegrass that inspired the band.
David Vaught gives the performances clean, clear sound, and the band is tight as spandex on a hooker’s ass. McKee’s powerhouse larynx is easily the focal point, but doesn’t overpower the skillful contributions of her bandmates. Overall, This is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983 may just be the definitive Lone Justice recorded experience.
DOWNLOAD: “Cactus Rose,” “This World is Not My Home,” “Soap, Soup and Salvation”