Uncle Lucius describe themselves as a 'Country-infused Austin southern rock band' recommended for fans of Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Brothers Osborne. I for one like the sound of that!
The band has built up a solid fan base over ten years of gigging and has shared stages with luminaries such as Merle Haggard, Shooter Jennings, Ryan Bingham and the like.
After exiting the Nashville 'machine', Uncle Lucius called on their fans who loyally pledged the money to fund this album.
The band itself consists of Kevin Galloway lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Michael Carpenter electric & acoustic guitar and vocals, Josh Greco drums, percussion, vocals, Jonathan Grossman keys, synths, vocals and Nigel Frye bass and synth. Additional musicians add more vocals, strings, electric guitar, trumpet and saxophone across the tracks.
Unusually, the song writing is shared by all five members, either as individuals or in different combinations and two tracks are written by founding member Hal Vorpahl who, as far as I can see, does not actually play on the album at all.
Lastly, the album itself was recorded at The Tree Fort studio in Austin, Texas and produced by George Reiff.
Opening track 'The Light' enters on a choppy acoustic guitar part before vocalist Kevin Galloway saunters in. He has a sturdy, melodic voice that carries the music well, more Sturgill Simpson and Brothers Osborne than the lighter tones of Jason Isbell to my ears. The band start coming in gradually at around twenty seconds or so then have a little pause on fifty seconds before crashing in good and proper. They can play for sure and it's a real showcase of drums, bass, electric guitar, keyboards and anything else they can squeeze in whilst still keeping Kevin's voice on top of the mix.
'Age of Reason' follows and is a slower, more sleazy, riffy number that reminded me a little of John Hiatt's 'Memphis in the Meantime'. Great playing all round again, beautifully atmospheric and Kevin's vocal syncopation and phrasing is particularly striking here as well.
As well as the Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson type references mentioned above, Uncle Lucius also put me in mind of those wonderful eighties bands Hootie & The Blowfish and Crash Test Dummies in terms of their feel and playing.
Whilst the first two tracks are both well under four minutes in length, 'Taking in the View' is a grand six minutes ten seconds. On an album of very good songs, this is easily my favourite. The first minute is almost cinematic or orchestral in scope before a tight acoustic guitar part brings in the band on a chugging drum, bass and electric guitar rhythm track, which builds beautifully to the chorus. Top it off with another fine, storytelling vocal and you have just about the perfect song.
Wisely, 'Ouroboros' does not try and compete and is almost funky by comparison with its drum and bass heavy groove over which Kevin almost chants the vocal and is a clever way to follow the previous track.
And so it goes for the rest of the album. Consistently good songs that ring many musical changes whilst staying true to a core sound to keep things focussed and recognisable. For me 'The End of 118' has hints of rootsy era REM, 'Gulf Coast Gypsies' conjures up The Band, 'Flood Then Fade Away' and several other tracks echo the marvellously tight playing and inventiveness of The Dave Matthews Band and the chugging grooves of JJ Cale.
It is important to stress that none of this sounds copied or derivative, just that these for me are musical markers to locate a band as accomplished and creative as Uncle Lucius.
I think it is safe to say that anyone who contributed to the crowd funding for this album got great value for money. Consistently good songs, outstanding vocals, wonderfully tight playing, all marvellously recorded and produced.
In fact, I think the only way this record could be improved upon would be to hear the band give it a good working over live!
|Kalyn Fay: Bible Belt||Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley: The Country Blues|
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