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

Lone Justice
Lone Justice

This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983
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Videos by American Songwriter

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. Replacement drummer Don Heffington, whose previous work with the legendary Emmylou Harris was irrefutable, referred his friend David Vaught to the rest of the group, as founding member Ryan Hedgecock recalls. So the group retreated to his studio to record these dozen songs, nine of which are previously unreleased.

The lid is blown completely off by a band showing it has something to prove. Lead singer Maria McKee is an absolute firecracker, recalling Dolly Parton’s feverish vocals upon first listen so it’s no surprise when Parton herself gives the band an endorsement in the middle of the booklet. It’s apparent in the opening track, “Nothing Can Stop My Loving You,” a cover of the George Jones classic, when she rides a mean country kicker with a fast-tongued delivery that occasionally yips and crackles like a fire.

While a number of other covers grace the set like Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues” and Johnny Cash and June Carter’s “Jackson,” the group also penned some fantastic originals including a track, “Soap, Soul And Salvation,” that would later end up on their aforementioned debut. Here, we get an early glimpse into the song, as bassist Marvin Etzioni bounces up and down his frets over McKee’s lyrics.

“Cactus Rose,” co-penned by McKee and Etzioni, owes to the rock side of the spectrum with its exemplary lead guitar by Hedgecock, although McKee still growls with a slight country twang. The group only had a couple of full length albums unfortunately, but these early recording show why the alt-country movement became such a success. The energy lasts throughout the compilation, with nary a ballad to be found, and if this is any indication of what Omnivore has planned for the rest of this year, music fans are in for a treat.

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