Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Uncle Lucius: “The Light” (2015) CD Review

Uncle Lucius’s new album, The Light, was funded by fans, and perhaps partly for that reason has a much-appreciated optimism and an underlying faith in folks (which should transfer to the listener). This album at times feeling like a phone call from a friend who not only wants to catch you up on his life but wants to hear about yours, even offering thoughtful bits of advice, like “Don’t be afraid to change your mind/Don’t be afraid to change.” These songs have elements of rock, country and folk (man, I’d love to see them on a double bill with I See Hawks In L.A.), with a focus on the songwriting. I like these lines from “Nothing To Save”: “Time is a concept/A construct of man/Man could very well be/Dead wrong again.” Uncle Lucius is based in Austin, and “The Light” is the band’s fourth album.

This CD kicks off with “The Light,” the album’s title track. Interestingly, this is a song that is simultaneously about taking a more active approach to one’s life and also about looking inward rather than outward. It was written by singer/guitarist Kevin Galloway. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Instead of choosing to live in reaction mode/I set intention before me, let go and flow/To grow and know from the inside out/And shine light into shadows cast by doubt.” Not bad, eh? Plus, this song has a good groove, and some really nice work on keys by Jonathan Grossman.

It’s followed by “Age Of Reason,” which was written by Hal Vorpahl, the band’s original bass player. This is one of my favorite tracks, and it has a very positive vibe and groove and lyrics. “Oh, we say division/Comes from within/But how we’re different/Will never mean as much/As how we’re kin.” The song calls for an age of reason, which I think we could all get behind. This track takes on something of a funky soul vibe, akin to some of the late ‘60s, early ‘70s R&B recordings, as the band is joined by Tiger Anaya on trumpet and Mark Wilson on saxophone (both from Shinyribs).

I really like this album, and as I’ve said, a lot of its appeal for me is in the lyrics. Another of my favorites, “Taking In The View,” begins with a play on the idea of the devil being in the detail: “The devil’s in the detail shop/Waiting on his old ragtop/Wondering where the hell have all the real souls gone.” The main line, “And he’s going to spend his golden years taking in the view,” taken on its own, on the one hand sounds kind of sad, like giving up, but on the other hand, has a positive ring, as it’s a conscious choice, like taking some control. But the whole thing takes on a different feel when you see just who this character is, referred to as “the bright and morning star” in Revelation 22:16 (yeah, I looked it up). This song combines that description with ZZ Tops’ “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to give us the lines, “And the bright and morning star/Just left Chicago.” He has a stack of records, and in one section, this song makes reference to several of the records he’s listening to: Dylan, CCR, Beatles, and so on. I like taking these characters from religion and putting them into a sort of mundane context. And I like the addition of strings on this track (that’s Eleanor Whitmore). The opening instrumental section is beautiful. And the ending is intense. This is an all-round strong song, written by Kevin Galloway.

“No Time Flat” has a gorgeous mellow country feel at the start, and grows from there. “It’s a new day, a new time/A fresh chance to start right.” And the second time Kevin sings, “Slow down, slow down,” the song itself responds, slowing down. And the following line, “Just be here now,” is a reference to the Ram Dass book. So yes, this is a seize-the-day, live-in-the-moment song, and I’m starting to think there can’t be enough of these. It seems a message we need to hear on a regular basis, especially these days.

“No Time Flat” is followed by “Wheels In Motion,” written by Jonathan Grossman and Michael Carpenter, which takes us on a bit of an emotional ride, at first offering some depressing thoughts: “We are all broken/There is no new/No home left/Just someplace/We’re passing through.” But then it offers this: “Don’t be afraid to change/When your own skin/Seems so strange/And the right road/You can’t find/Don’t be afraid to change your mind/Don’t be afraid to change.” The song then takes us to the death of a young soldier before repeating, “The wheel’s in motion/And there’s no stopping.” For good or ill, it’s true.

The album concludes with “Someday Is A Far Cry,” which has a wonderful, fast groove during the chorus, and makes me think this band must put on a good concert.

CD Track List
  1. The Light
  2. Age Of Reason
  3. Taking In The View
  4. Ouroboros
  5. The End Of 118
  6. No Time Flat
  7. Wheels In Motion
  8. Gulf Coast Gypsies
  9. Flood Then Fade Away
  10. Don’t Own The Right
  11. Nothing To Save
  12. Someday Is A Far Cry

Uncle Lucius is Kevin Galloway on vocals and acoustic guitar; Michael Carpenter on electric guitar, acoustic guitar and vocals; Josh Greco on drums, percussion and vocals; Jonathan Grossman on keyboards, synth and vocals; and Nigel Frye on bass and synth.

The Light was released on June 9, 2015 through Thirty Tigers and Boo Clap Records.

1 comment:

  1. Not only a great CD offering from Uncle Lucius but a outstanding review by Michael Doherty. I do not say that because it was a favorable review but Michael did his homework. Well written and on point. Thanks for doing your job well Michael!