Austin’s Uncle Lucius severs ties with their old label for the freedom to independently release their fourth album, The Light. The album reflects their new found independence with soul-searching lyrics and music that’s hard to pigeon hole into any one genre. Part Possum Jenkins and part Widespread Panic, they play their own unique brand of alt-Country with a bluesy, jam band attitude.
The title track starts off with guitarist Kevin Galloway singing, “No longer motivated by fear or bread…” accompanied by a single acoustic guitar. After a few bars he’s joined by piano, then bass, then drums and electric guitar. And a simple, folksy groove is transformed into a rollicking barrelhouse blues number. The opening lyrics and the changing time signatures could be interpreted as a parting shot at their old label or an assertion of their own, newfound independence. But Galloway’s lyrics go deeper as he seeks to, “grow and know from the inside out, and shine some light into shadows cast by doubt.” He wants to know, “Where’s the light? Where does the light come from?” Then in an epiphany, he answers his own question with, “It is not out there – It is in here.” And it becomes clear that the independence the band seeks is not just economic or even musical, but downright spiritual.
“Age of Reason” follows in their quest for musical enlightenment with an electric blues punctuated by a few well-placed Memphis horns. Singing, “How we’re different will never mean as much as how we’re kin,” the band calls for a new age of reason even though those entrenched in power and old ways of thinking my see it as treason.
In “Taking In The View,” Uncle Lucius find a bit of humor on the spiritual path. They sing, “Last time the market fell, Satan had to sell off half of Hell. Then with a nod to ZZ Top they continue, “And the bright and morning star just left Chicago. He’s headed down to Asheville Carolina via Ohio. He’s got a stack of classic vinyl and a turntable to boot. And he’s gonna spend his golden years taking in the view.” Although I don’t claim to know enlightenment, looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains while listening to some old Van Morrison on the turntable might just come pretty close.
The rest of the album continues to dig deep and ask soul-probing questions, but with an overall positive message of hope and self-empowerment. Ranging from the jazzy, contrapuntal rhythms of “Ourobors” to the Country-Rock of “End of 118” to the percussive prog-rock of “Flood Then Fade Away,” the band experiments with both sonic and philosophical alternatives to the mainstream. Some of their efforts might fall outside the comfort zone of casual listeners, but that’s exactly the point. This album is a refreshing and welcome departure from the beer-stained heartbreak songs that dominate so much of Americana and Alt-Country. For those willing to expand their musical palette, this album will surely help them see “The Light.”