Not surprisingly, Uncle Lucius came out of Austin, Texas. They really couldn’t have come from anywhere else, given the sound of the band. Rooted in the old-time country, blues, and rock of Texas music, dripping with soul, with a groove that made them sound loose but tight, with a jam band mentality that was always going to endear them to the live crowd, Uncle Lucius were the physical embodiment of the Austin independent music scene.
In 2002, a 25-year-old from Freeport, East Texas, Kevin Galloway, who had been playing guitar for some years and had been raised on classic country music, realised that, rather than pursue a career in Banking, what he really wanted to do was follow his dreams of being a working musician. He promptly relocated to Austin and began playing open-mic nights around the local scene. He initially teamed up with bassist Hal Vorpahl before adding Mike Carpenter, a guitarist who had worked with bands such as The Tubes and was a veteran of the Austin scene, to become a trio. The addition of drummer Jason Armstrong completed the original line-up of the band and Uncle Lucius was born!
The band released their first album, ‘Something They Ain’t’ in 2006, having already established a solid reputation at some of Austin’s most prestigious live venues, such as Antone’s and the Saxon Pub. The album was well received in the local area, where they toured extensively to promote it. The first album was a self-released effort and achieved enough recognition for the band to prepare for a second album along the same lines. Jason Armstrong left the band during this period and, while they initially planned to use a session drummer for the recording, they auditioned and hired Josh Greco, who had moved to Austin to attend college, before the sessions began. Their second album, ‘Pick Your Head Up’, was released in 2009 and was followed by their first live recording ‘Live at the Saxon Pub’, recorded in the December of that year and released early in 2010. The success of these early, self-financed recordings attracted the attention of Nashville based eOne Music, who duly signed the band for their third, and most commercially successful, studio album, ‘And You Are Me’, produced by R.S. Field, who had worked with the likes of Sonny Landreth, Omar and The Howlers and Hayes Carll. Tracks like ‘Keep The Wolves Away’ and ‘Pocket Full of Misery’ did well on radio, both locally and nationally, and the band rapidly built an audience outside of their home state, including interest in Europe. Around this time they added an additional member, Kentuckian keyboard player Jon Grossman, becoming a five-piece.
Their time with eOne Music didn’t last long, it would seem the band weren’t best suited to the strictures of a record company deal, and the story is that they celebrated with an impromptu party in a Motel parking lot the day they were released from their contract! They returned to independent record making for their next album, 2015’s ‘The Light’, made possible with a crowdfunding campaign and released on their own label, Boo Clap records, but distributed through well-established Nashville outfit, Thirty Tigers. This was to be their last recording as a band. Their albums always sold well enough, if not particularly spectacularly, and their reputation on the live circuit was formidable, being known as a band that could play long sets that held the audiences attention – and they could attract audiences wherever they played but, for reasons that no-one really seems able to fathom, the band never really got a proper foothold outside of Texas. Mention Uncle Lucius to anyone who has heard them and they’ll rave about a band that could’ve/should’ve been a contender – but all too often you mention the band, outside of their home state, and get a blank stare. They are, perhaps, a prime example of how difficult it is for even the best of bands to break through to the top level.
After the release of ‘The Light’, Hal Vorpahl, the bass player who had been with Galloway from the very start, left the band. They continued on as a quartet but something was lost when one half of the original duo moved on and it wasn’t too long before Galloway also decided that his future lay outside of the band they’d formed and, in the September of 2017, he also announced he would be departing from Uncle Lucius, bringing the curtain down on one of Texas’ great unsigned, hard-touring bands. Fittingly, for a band known for the strength of its live shows, Uncle Lucius’ then went out on a six-month farewell tour and their final gig was two sold-out nights at the famous Gruene Hall in New Braunfels. The oldest continually operating dance hall in the state of Texas, built in 1878. The band always had style.
The life of a road musician is a tough one and, while America has no shortage of music venues and a good band can make a decent living on the live circuit, it’s a gruelling existence that wears a body down. Galloway’s statement on calling it a day with the band says it all, “12 years, five vans, 4 studio albums, countless miles, and friendships forged in fire, a lifetime of lessons and positive experiences. I’m forever grateful. I have no regrets. I’m moving on”.
Since the band folded in 2017, the various band members have been difficult to follow up on. Kevin Galloway has remained the most publicly prominent of the group. Now married and with a young family, he has, understandably, turned away from all the touring but is still an active musician. He released his only solo album to date in 2018, ‘The Change’, immediately identifiable as coming from the frontman of Uncle Lucius but with a more acoustic, folkier approach. The album is produced by his old bandmate, Hal Vorpahl and Jon Grossman is also present on keyboards.
Galloway has a presence on Facebook, where he has been offering the occasional streamed show during lockdown and he has a webpage at www.kgallowaymusic.com with a couple of gigs listed for later in the summer. The rest of the band have proved impossible to find but, maybe they’ll see this article and let us know what they’re up to these days. It would be nice to think that, one day, we might yet hear more from one of Texas’ finest.