A welcome return from the gold standard of Texan Southern roots rock bands with their first album in eight years.
AUK’s Rick Bayles called Uncle Lucius “one of Texas’ finest” in 2021, hoping that they would return one day. How right he was on both counts. Their reunion, with new members bassist Drew Scherger and guitarist Doug Strahan joining Mike Carpenter, Josh Greco, Kevin Galloway, and Jon Grossman, was some of the happiest music news this year. (I’m not crying; you’re crying).
Uncle Lucius released four studio albums between their formation in 2002 and their breakup in 2018, but garnered their biggest hit after they broke up (‘Keep The Wolves Away’). This unexpected viral hit, which was everywhere after its inclusion on the show ‘Yellowstone,’ was a consideration when the band discussed reforming. Galloway, who released two fine solo albums in the interim, says, “There’s a new perspective that comes with stepping away from something for a while, then coming back to it. You can see it with new eyes.”
‘Like It’s The Last One Left’ was recorded at EAR Studios in Austin, where the band recorded ‘Pick Your Head Up.’ There is still the backwoods cool, and the combination of sleazy East Texas blues, outlaw country, psychedelic rock, and a touch of Muscle Shoals grooves temporarily relocated to The Big Pink, but somehow everything is better this time.
The first track ‘Keep Singing Along’ starts off immediately letting everyone know that it is above all else, a huge party. There might be contemplative moments outside the party house with a smoke (‘I’m Happy’), and maybe some heavy existential discussions in the kitchen (‘Trace My Soul’), but the revelry doesn’t stop for long.
The stand-alone tracks for Spotify and radio only tell part of the story. Uncle Lucius are among Texas’ iconic artists, and Austin fans have felt rather protective of them. The band have been spokesmen of sorts for the original native Austin scene, in one case gently mocking the affluent LA carpetbaggers described in ‘All The Angelenos.’
Galloway recorded the phone demo for the manic stomp ‘Civilized Anxiety’ at the Lightnin’ Hopkins statue in Crockett, Texas. With heart-palpitation drums, it captures the atmosphere of trying to just get around in an overcrowded city with nightmarish traffic and wanting to escape to the woods.
‘Tuscaloosa Rain’ is a beautiful strings-soaked track, thanks to Tosca String Quartet, with harmonies from vocal duo US. Along with ‘Heart Over Mind,’ it would make a great over-the-top Vegas live number. US also appear on ‘Holy Roller,’ a gospel jam that highlights the band’s impressive musicianship.
Southern rocker ‘Trace My Soul’ is a take on the sentiment of ‘Let It Be’, letting things go, and a continuation of that sentiment from ‘I’m Happy’ (“let the world spin how it’s gonna spin”). “Let it sing the song it’s gonna sing / Let that pendulum swing the way it’s gonna swing / Let it be a natural thing / Let my tragedy give way to comedy / ‘cause that shit’s funny.”
‘Like It’s The Last One Left’ is unlike any Uncle Lucius albums that came before it. They may well have outdone their previous, already fantastic, body of work.