Lone Justice
This World Is Not My Home


Much has happened in the world of country music in the 12 years since Lone Justice released their final album and the arrival of this new compilation of hits, demos, and live tracks. Garth Brooks, Lyle Lovett, k d lang, Dwight Yoakam, the reemergence of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Emmylou Harris, and alt.country acts like Uncle Tupelo/Wilco/Son Volt, Lucinda Williams, and Steve Earle were all either just starting out or several years away 12-15 years ago when Lone Justice emerged from the LA club scene. Featuring a firebrand of a singer who displayed a power and emotional depth far beyond her age of 21 years, the band dared to play music heavily influenced by country and gospel in the wake of the new wave explosion. Producing only two albums and never obtaining that big hit, the band's legacy will always be associated with lost potential.

Almost half of "This World Is Not My Home" features unreleased tracks the band recorded prior to their self-titled 1985 debut. Hard-core fans will be beside themselves to hear these early recordings by the group's original members playing in the shout and stomp style of that first record. Some of these tunes, especially "The Train" featuring vocals from guitarist Ryan Hedgecock, highlight the similarities the band had with X, another 1-woman 3-man quartet from LA that played high energy roots music. There is also a shared band member; guitarist Tony Gilkyson who toured with Lone Justice before replacing Billy Zoom in X. He appears on this collection on a live recording of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane", which also features U2's Bono on vocals.

The appeal of Lone Justice was twofold; the fresh sound of country music played with the fervor and honesty of DIY punk, and the sweet but powerful vocals of Maria McKee. Those two elements are evident in abundance on those early tracks. "Rattlesnake Mama", "Working Man Blues", and "Cottonbelt" are barn burners that display a raw edge usually not found in the material that made it to record. Even stronger are the gospel flavored title track featuring a lovely intro from Maria, and the already mentioned X-like "The Train" with it's locomotive rhythm. Amidst all this high octane C&W, "Go Away Little Boy" is a bit of an oddity. It features Bob Dylan as songwriter and rhythm guitarist, Ron Wood on lead guitar, and Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers on keyboards (he was practically a fifth member of the band on that first record). Despite the assembled talent, the band performs in a rather lackluster manner exhibiting none of the energy found on the other tracks. Only McKee's vocals sound impressive. The true gem of these "new" tracks is the opener, "Drugstore Cowboy". The two step rhythm is a touch slower and the arrangement is a bit more polished than the other tracks, which gives Maria a chance to really shine with her singing. It's a wonderful blend of singer and band, passion and restraint, country and rock.

The rest of the CD contains previously released material and a few live cuts. Seeing Lone Justice live was always a rather sublime experience, but these recordings cannot convey the same feeling. "Sweet, Sweet Baby" is near disastrous, and "Sweet Jane" has the unwelcome presence of Bono. Only "Wheels" with it's emotional vocals sometimes reduced to barely a whisper, comes close to capturing something of the experience. The tracks taken from the two studio albums are all very strong and demonstrate a wide range of styles from country ballad ("Don't Toss Us Away') to soft rock ("Shelter") to bar band country rock ("Ways to Be Wicked"). Some of these songs, as good as they are, in the context of this collection come off sounding rather tame, almost MOR, which is too bad. The music Lone Justice created was a radical departure from the rock and country music scenes of the day. Maria McKee has released some very good music throughout her solo career ("You Gotta Sin To Be Saved" was practically a Lone Justice reunion), but nothing has recaptured the fresh and exciting sounds of that first record. "This World Is Not My Home" serves as a good introduction to the band's music, but more importantly it brings back some of the excitement of those days.

Doug Leonard

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