Lone Justice - The Western Tapes, 1983
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The Western Tapes, 1983 (Omnivore, 2018)

Lone Justice

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

"The Western Tapes, 1983" captures Lone Justice just before they became Los Angeles' cowpunk darlings with their 1985 self-titled debut. This was so early in their artistic development, in fact, that producer Marvin Etzioni wasn't even a band member yet. There's a freshness and innocence about these six recordings that will remind you just how special Lone Justice was at their inception and an example of what made Los Angeles' roots music scene in the '80s so memorable.

Although "Don't Toss Us Away" was a hit for Patty Loveless, it's always a thrill to hear it sung (as it's sung here) by its writer Bryan MacLean's half-sister, Maria McKee. McKee, at or around 19, sounded wise beyond her years. She may have been inspired by icons like Dolly Parton, but she by no means had that much life experience. Nevertheless, you'd never guess this to be non-drinking aged woman listening to her sing these songs.

Many of these songs feature relatively simple arrangements, including acoustic guitar strumming and electric guitar fills. Some ("The Train") also include fiddle. "I See It" finds McKee singing a duet with band partner Ryan Hedgecock for a two-stepping country song about the impending apocalypse. It's infused with religious passion, as McKee was also a passionately religious girl at the time.

Similar to how Nickel Creek later infused bluegrass music with a large dosage of youthful enthusiasm, Lone Justice was alt.-country long before alt.-country was cool. Never toss this one away!

CDs by Lone Justice

The Western Tapes, 1983, 2018 Holy Ghost, 2014

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