Lone Justice. If you don’t recognized the name of the band, you’re not alone–they burned bright and brilliant for a few short years in the mid-1980s, an edgy country-blues-pop band that defied the classifications of the time, too hard edged and rock and roll for Nashville, too country for pop, and eventually too commercially viable for the “cowpunk” scene they slotted into. They were a big presence on indie and college radio at a time where the number of successful bands who leaned towards traditional could fit, albeit uncomfortably, in the round corner booth at Denny’s. The Beat Farmers and come to mind, and giants like the inimitable band “X,” and maybe The Meat Puppets–but I’d most closely associate them with another great little band called The Blasters, in that their country roots showed a little darker than most, and even then Lone Justice had some strong southern blues undercurrents that placed them left of center of one of the more unwieldy sub-genres of music.
I got the first Lone Justice album from the RCA Record club–the greatest thing ever. It seems silly now in the midst of almost universal digital access, but music used to be expensive, and kids in small towns like mine were at the mercy of our record sellers. Now, we had a good, non-corporate record store, but they leaned more towards bands like Yes and Edgar Winter and sold a lot of bongs. Rowdy kids jamming old-fashioned country revved up with alternative vigor weren’t on their radar. RCA ran advertisements in newspapers and magazines along with their glossier rival, Columbia House, which was bigger and fancier but required a much larger commitment–get 12 records for free, a 13th for $3.99, and agree to buy 5 or 6 more at “regular club” prices, which were on the high side, and the old “shipping and handling” scam. RCA only gave you 6 free, but you just had to buy one at a discount and two more at those club prices.. You could be out of there with nine records for $30, wait a couple months, and sign up again–and RCA had a small but interesting selection of “interesting” recording.
I didn’t know much about Lone Justice expect that the sounded great, but when the album arrived and I threw it on the turntable, it was like BAM–my tastes in music changed. Not completely, but more than a little. I’d already had my alternative tastes challenged by a friend who kept giving me Grateful Dead tapes, and turning me on to all the country-blues-roots that come with the Dead, but Lone Justice sent me deep into the barnyard. A few years later I would buy the Cowboy Junkies “Trinity Sessions,” and that band would instantly become–and it still remains–my absolute favorite, while my musical tastes are best described as “confused.’