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Lone Justice

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Album Review

Few new bands receive the kind of critical buzz that Lone Justice generated prior to the release of their first album in 1985, and one senses the band (not to mention producer Jimmy Iovine and Geffen Records) wanted to deliver something special to merit the hype. Which was not necessarily a good thing; Lone Justice is an album that tries so hard to be great that it sometimes ends up tripping over its own ambitions. The record leaves no doubt that the first edition of Lone Justice was a very good band; on the best cuts, Maria McKee's voice sounds like a force of nature, bassist Marvin Etzioni and drummer Don Heffington are a strong and imaginative rhythm section whether they were playing souped-up country shuffles or fifth-gear rock & roll, and if guitarist Ryan Hedgecock isn't quite a virtuoso, he's solid and inspired when he gets to step to the forefront. But guest keyboardist Benmont Tench and the other high-priced help (including Little Steven, Mike Campbell, and an uncredited Annie Lennox) often overwhelm the group's personality, and while McKee's songs celebrating the heart and soul of rural America are unquestionably sincere, they don't always ring true ("After the Flood" and "Pass It On" sound more like writing exercises than narratives centered around believable characters), and they also seem to inspire Iovine's most bombastic production decisions. Where Lone Justice succeeds is on straight-ahead rockers like "East of Eden" and "Working Late," the C&W weeper "Don't Toss Us Away," and the tough "love gone bad" number "Way to Be Wicked," all of which prove that this band really did have the goods. In the wake of the 1990s alt-country movement, in which dozens of bands mined similar musical territory with more satisfying results, Lone Justice sounds like an example of too many cooks spoiling the soup; there's enough good stuff to make it worth hearing, but its hard not to wish Lone Justice had gotten the sort of sympathetic but hands-off production that allowed Wilco and the Jayhawks to do their best work.

Customer Reviews

Sweet, Sweet Baby - Maria McKee...

Wow, a great voice and great looks too. Maria's pouty cow-punk was enjoyable to hear on the radio in L.A.; until the radio station promoting this kind of music change formats and became KNAC - Metal and Glam-Rock spinners instead. Yes, some of it is a bit weird, like "Soap, Soup, & Salvation', but that too is a part of the Downtown Los Angeles landscape (L.A. Mission, Fred Jordan Mission, etc). The best songs are "Don't Toss Us Away", "Sweet, Sweet Baby", & "Wait Till We Get Home". Maria can sing Country, Blues, Syrupy Pop, and Sultry Ballad equally well. Get this collection - then play it for your friends.

Underappreciated in their time

I remember my first glimpse of Lone Justice, opening for U2 during the Unforgettable Fire tour (Brendan Byrne Arena). I was never a huge U2 fan, and Lone Justice played against the more pedestrian rock influences of the headliners. Needless to say, the audience wasn't all that appreciative. I was puzzled. And I put of thinking about this band for another 20 years. How sorry I am that I did. Maria McKee's voice, as I remember it in live performance, was powerful and vulnerable at the same time, yearning and enthused. Her energy, palpable. This collection of very pop-aware alternative country is definitely a keeper, holding up very well over the years. The lead single, "Ways to Be Wicked," still rocks with a punch. The remainder of the material is similarly strong. Don't be fooled by Lone Justice's brief lifespan. They generated a lot to appreciate of in a short period of time.

Brilliant country rock

Maria McKee is one of the great songwriters of the last 3 decades.


Formed: 1984

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s

The roots rock band Lone Justice was formed in Los Angeles by guitarist Ryan Hedgecock and singer Maria McKee. The half-sister of Bryan MacLean, a member of the seminal psychedelic outfit Love, McKee's involvement in the L.A. club scene dated back to her infancy; at the age of three, she joined MacLean at a performance at the famed Whisky-a-Go-Go and was befriended by Frank Zappa and members of the Doors. As a teen, she studied musical theater, and briefly performed in duos with MacLean and local...
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