If there ever was a band that broke up way way way too soon, it would be Lone Justice. The band’s blend of rock meets country that was often referred to as “cowpunk,” defined one of the most original sounds of the 1980’s. At the heart of the band lay a golden voiced singer that performed with the spirit of Bruce Springsteen meets Janis Joplin meets Dolly Parton. But beyond her thrilling vocals bled the heart of a substantial songwriter who would eventually leave the band for a very successful and critically renowned solo career.
It was sad that the band broke up, yet in retrospect, the band actually broke up twice. After the band’s initial record release entitled Lone Justice in 1985, all members of the band left the group with the exception of Maria McKee. Their sophomore debut in 1986 entitled Shelter consisted of an entirely new band and was produced by Steven Van Zandt. Yet the spirit of Lone Justice still could be heard throughout the recording. The reason is simple; Maria Mckee.
After the release of the Shelter album, the band was disbanded once again. The legend of Lone Justice came to a quick end. Geffen records would release a Live Radio at the BBC Radio Concert in 1993, and a greatest hits package with unreleased bonus tracks in 1998. In 2014, Lone Justice fans were presented with a CD of demos entitled This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes 1983.
There are bands in classic rock history that make their mark based on just one song or album. Lone Justice was one of those great bands that turned heads the second they hit the concert stage. Just one look at any of the live videos presented here, and you will understand the power this band transcended over the audience on the concert stage. And like we said before, that power resonated from the heart, soul, and spirit of their phenomenal lead singer Maria Mckee
# 11 – Soap, Soup, and Salvation
Starting out our 11 Best Lone Justice Songs list is the wonderfully original titled song “Soap. Soup, and Salvation.” The song first appeared on the band’s first album Lone Justice. The song was written by original bassist Marvin Etzioni and Maria Mckee. It’s important to recognize the that impact Marivn Etzioni’s songwriting skills had on the first record. Etzoni received songwriting credit on six of the album’s ten tracks. It’s probably pretty safe to say that Marvin Etzioni was a major influence in crafting the band’s sound on their first album both in the studio and on stage.
We have linked the live video recording to this song because we know once you watch this, you are going to be blown away by Maria Mckee and the band’s performance. This video was recorded at the MTV News Years Eve Bash in 1987, with the band’s second lineup.
# 10 – Don’t Toss Us Away
Lone Justice delivered some of the most spirited rock, blues, country performances of the entire decade. However, when it came time to showcase a ballad, Maria Mckee could drop you to your knees in tears. One of her most beautiful ballad performances was delivered on the mid-tempo number “Don’t Toss Us Away.” The song was written by songwriter Bryan McLean. The studio recording of “Don’t Toss Us Away,” first appeared on the band’s debut album The song was also recorded by country singer Patty Loveless who had a top 5 hit with the song on the country charts.
# 9 – East Of Eden
This amazing studio recording of Lone Justice’s “East of Eden,” was the track that opened up their debut album Lone Justice in 1985. The song was written by the band’s bassist and vocalist Marvin Etzioni. Simply just two and a half minutes of pure rocking excitement. Maria and the band were on fire on this amazing killer opening track.
# 8 – Rattlesnake Mama
No other song probably defined their pure country western roots more that the very enjoyable song “Rattlesnake Mama.” The song did not appear on either of their two albums released in the 1980’s. It was not officially released until their greatest hits package “The World Is Not My Home,” was issued in 1998.
# 7 – Working Late
One of our favorite live Lone Justice performances featured the “I’ll get you back,” theme that Maria Mckee always so convincingly sold in her live and studio performances. In this great performance Shane Fontayne lights it up on guitar while Maria dance’s frantically in the background. It’s just simply mind-blowing entertainment. Maria steps back up to the mic and tares it back home. It just don’t get any better.
Allegedly, Dolly Parton had seen the band perform the song in concert before their first album was released and had expressed an interest in recording the song. However Dolly Parton had allegedly said that she would only record the song if Lone Justice would not release the song on their first record. Marvin said no thanks and the rest is history.
# 6 – After The Flood
The song “After The Flood,” was another great track from the band’s debut album Lone Justice. The song’s mid-tempo groove was the perfect complement to be placed second on the album after the loud foot stomping “East Of Eden,” opened the record. The song was written by Maria Mckee. It’s amazing that how at such a young age Maria Mckee was writing songs that displayed a maturity way beyond her years.
# 5 – Wait Till We Get Home
The last words any man wants to hear from his girlfriend or wife were so chillingly delivered by the one and only Maria Mckee in one of the band most famous songs. The classic track “Wait Till We Get Home,” was also released on the band’s debut album Lone Justice in 1985. The song was written by band members Marvin Etzioni, Ryan Hedgecock, and Maria Mckee.
# 4 – Wheels
While so much of the Lone Justice catalog presented fans with a very original mix of rock and roll meets country western, there were a few moments where you could hear the influence of particular artists. Singers like Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline most definitely played a role in inspiring Maria vocals performances. However, on the song “Wheels,” one can hear the heavy influences of Bruce Springsteen songs like “Thunder Road,” on Maria’ lyrical visions. And that is we believe an entirely fair observation, because Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run album probably played one of the most significant roles in inspiring an entire generation of songwriters who came of age in the 1980s. And that my friends is a good thing.
# 3 – I Found Love
The amazing drum groove that open this classic song just makes you want to get up and dance just like Maria does in the video. Just like the first album’s opening track “East Of Eden,” the great song “I Found Love,” opened their sophomore album with a smack you in the face, throw you against the wall, lets celebrate mentality. And that somehow defines so much of the Lone Justice sound that we so desperately wished would have continued for a few more records than only the two released. But than again, we would not trade away the body of solo work that Maria Mckee began to release after the demise of the band. Just wish we could have had both.
# 2 – Ways To Be Wicked
One of our favorite Lone Justice songs ever recorded was written by the great Tom Petty. Oh Yeah, you can just hear Tom Petty’s signature melody and sarcasm all over this one. Maria Mckee and the band just soaked up Tom Petty’s wit and delivered an astonishing recording that never gets boring to listen to. We can listen to this one every day and it will still sound fresh, angry and full of all there is that makes a great rock and roll record. The song was released on their first record Lone Justice.
# 1 – You Are The Light / Shelter
We couldn’t do it. Nope we just could not decide between these two amazing songs. So our 11 Best Lone Justice Songs list ends in a tie for first place. It’s interesting that the two songs were written by different songwriters, because somehow “Shelter,” seems to be the logical sequel to “You Are The Light.” The great Marvin Etzioni composed the song “You Are The Light,” which closed out the band’s first album. Fittingly so, the song Shelter written by Maria Mckee and Steven Van Zandt opened the band’s second record.
While both songs sounded completely different in their instrumentation and arrangements, they both expressed the same “only you and me,”conceptuality that has always defined the heart of the best popular music songs of the 20th Century. But fueling the success and beauty of both songs is none other than the heartfelt expressionism of the artist Maria Mckee. Shelter may have been Lone Justice’s swan song, but for Maria it was just the beginning.