Album Review: A fiery 'Lone Justice'

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.

Recorded in the San Fernando Valley, "This Is Lone Justice" introduces McKee & Co. with a combination of covers and originals. Among the classics they tackle are Merle Haggard's "Working Man's Blues," the George Jones/Roger Miller song "Nothing Can Stop My Loving You" and the oft-recorded "Jackson." The song selection suggests a band that had internalized a heck of a lot of country ideas at a young age.

PHOTOS: Iconic rock guitars and their owners

McKee, after all, was only 18 when this stuff was recorded, and her youth is most obvious in the cut-and-paste Dust Bowl-themed lyrics that dot the originals here. Still, the virtuosity within "The Grapes of Wrath," "Dustbowl Depression Time" and "Soap, Soup and Salvation" presents a confident mix of yowling twang and a heavy backbeat (courtesy of drummer Don Heffington and bassist Marvin Etzioni) that eclipses lesser lines.

Overshadowing all, though, is McKee, whose voice sounds like that of a young Dolly Parton fueled by Exene Cervenka's passion. "Working Man's Blues" especially reveals her natural-born way around a line. It's one thing to hit the notes, another thing altogether to manifest them so completely.


Lone Justice

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

(Omnivore Recordings)

31/2 stars

PHOTOS AND MORE PHOTOS: Concerts by the Times PHOTOS: Unexpected musical collaborations PHOTOS: Musician feuds: The dirt & details  

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Daughters of rock stars

    Daughters of rock stars

    Select female heirs to some of rock 'n' roll's finest have become models, actresses and even singers. See how they've fared. By Christy Khoshaba

  • Live review: Lee Ving and Fear bring hardcore to the Whisky

    Live review: Lee Ving and Fear bring hardcore to the Whisky

    Lucky for us, the so-called decline of Western civilization that birthed hardcore punk rock in the early 1980s didn't play out as feared. Thirty years later, beer is still served cold, parking meters now take credit cards, and musicians from the era when American punk harnessed suburban anger to...