Like It’s The Last One Left
Second chances are rare in rock ‘n’ roll. Most bands only get one shot at the brass ring, and once the opportunity passes by, it’s gone forever.
Maybe that’s why Uncle Lucius sounds like a band reborn on Like It’s The Last One Left, a cathartic comeback album that reunites the platinum-selling group — and pumps new blood into its roster — after a five-year hiatus. Written and recorded in the band’s hometown of Austin, Texas, Like It’s The Last One Left isn’t just a return to form; it’s an expansion, bolstering Uncle Lucius’ mix of amped-up Americana and greasy roots-rock with string arrangements, adventurous production, and the sharpest songwriting of the group’s career.
“There are no limitations this time around,” says frontman Kevin Galloway. “We’re exploring different areas of American roots music, and we’re doing it our own way. There’s a new perspective that comes with stepping away from something for awhile, then coming back to it. You can see it with new eyes.”
Uncle Lucius originally stepped away from the spotlight in March 2018, capping off a whirlwind decade that saw the band releasing four critically-acclaimed albums, wearing out five vans, and performing everywhere from New Braunfels to Norway. The guys were some of Austin’s most celebrated exports, supported by a cult following that rallied around signature songs like “Keep the Wolves Away” and “The Light.” Great bands don’t just build a catalog of songs, though; they build legacies that endure long after the band itself goes away. During the years that followed Uncle Lucius’ so-called farewell tour, the band’s audience increased rapidly, bringing new generations of fans into the fold. “Keep the Wolves Away” even showed up in an episode of Yellowstone and went viral, earning gold and platinum certifications along the way. As Uncle Lucius’ legacy grew, so did the desire to get back together.
“After ‘Wolves’ went gold, we got together at a fancy steakhouse in Austin to celebrate and tell old stories,” Galloway remembers. “We started to ask ourselves, ‘Should we reconsider this?’ The iron was hot, and we knew we had more music to offer.”
Months later, the bandmates found themselves back at EAR, the beloved Austin-area studio where they’d previously recorded their breakthrough album, Pick Your Head Up, during the late 2000s. Things looked a little different, of course. For starters, Hal Jon Vorpahl — the band’s co-founder and original bass player — was now serving a new role as Uncle Lucius’ producer and behind-the-scenes songwriter. (“He’s like the silent seventh member of the band now,” Galloway explains.) Also occupying new roles were the group’s most recent additions, bassist Drew Scherger and guitar hero Doug Strahan, who joined longtime members Mike Carpenter (guitar) Josh Greco (drums), Galloway (vocals), and Jon Grossman (keys). The expanded band tracked Like It’s The Last One Left‘s 10 songs to analog tape, with everyone playing together in real time, emphasizing the raw energy and pure electricity of a live performance. During the months that followed, they layered the recordings with orchestral strings and background harmonies, adding new dimension to the material. “We’ve always taken pride in being a great live band, but now we’re learned to become a seven-headed beast, too,” Galloway says. “We have two guitar players who work together and share leads. We have a producer who writes amazing songs. We all had the freedom to add to these songs and interpret them, and we really created something new together. This is a band album.”
It’s also Uncle Lucius’ finest record to date. Beginning with “Keep Singing Along” — an atmospheric blast of funky-tonk, anchored by a seize-the-day message that suits the band’s 2020s resurgence — Like It’s The Last One Left offers everything from larger-than-life anthems (the stomping “Civilized Anxiety,” the heartland rocker “Trace My Soul”) to laidback, loping Tex-Mex (“I’m Happy”). “Tuscaloosa Rain” channels Dusty Springfield and Burt Bacharach, complete with swooning orchestration from the Tosca String Quartet and stacked harmonies from the vocal duo US (Sir Woman, Wild Child). US also appears on “Holly Roller,” a track that’s equal parts roadhouse rock song and gospel-worthy freakout, while fellow Austinite Cody Braun (Reckless Kelly) plays fiddle on “All the Angelenos,” a humorous jab at the carpetbaggers who’ve relocated to Austin in the hopes of capitalizing on the city’s boom town status. Things come to a close with “Heart Over Mind,” another track that balances Uncle Lucius’ adventurous Americana with gorgeous melodies, symphonic strings, and the croon of Galloway’s voice.
Rooted in lyrics about resolve and resilience, Like It’s The Last One Left blurs the boundaries between genre and generation. It’s a battle cry from a band that’s rededicated itself to fighting the good fight, trading the breakneck pace of the group’s past for something a little more swaggering, stabilizing, and singular. “Remember to breathe,” Galloway sings during the album’s final moments, delivering those lines like a veteran road warrior who’s seen his share of exhaustion. That’s good advice. After spending a decade in the trenches, Uncle Lucius has caught its breath, seized the moment, and enjoyed a much-deserved victory lap. Like It’s The Last One Left is the soundtrack to the next leg of the journey.