Uncle Lucius

Show review: Uncle Lucius in Helena, Montana

Show Reviews

Uncle Lucius play euphoric set at Lewis & Clark Brewing in Helena, Montana

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“You’re right. That song is a gift.”

That’s what Doug Strahan, the newest member of Uncle Lucius, told frontman Kevin Galloway following their show Saturday, July 8 at Lewis & Clark Brewing in Helena, Montana,with special guest Nolan Taylor.  He was referring to “Keep the Wolves Away,” a song with more than 116 million listens on Spotify, thanks largely to its appearance on the nation’s biggest TV show,  “Yellowstone.”

What happened in Helena happens all over the country. “Wolves” comes late in the set, and by the time they get there, audience members’ minds have been blown by the irresistible electricity of Uncle Lucius jams, featuring mesmerizing guitar solos, sensational soulful keys playing and a chemistry that’s unparalleled. 

Uncle Lucius, Galloway says, is not one man – it’s a six-headed beast from Austin, Texas, one that features Mike Carpenter and Strahan on lead guitar, Jonny “Keys” Grossman on keyboard and accordion, Josh Greco on drums and Drew Scherger on bass. Galloway sings most of the tunes, but Grossman also shares in the vocals, as does Carpenter on occasion. They all contribute to the songwriting, and they all play a huge part in the Uncle Lucius sound, one that blends Southern rock, outlaw country, jam, soul, psychedelia and roots. That might sound ambitious, but it doesn’t feel like it. The sound is organic, also incorporating folk and alternative indie rock sometimes reminiscent of The Band, Rusted Root and 10,000 Maniacs. Uncle Lucius transports you and elevates you with its musicianship and its message, as Galloway so often sings of hope, love, overcoming life’s hardships, and he does it with a kind, optimistic tone, and a rare range so impressive it gives you goosebumps.

That’s what was on display at Lewis & Clark, an outdoor venue on a gorgeous, green, surprisingly cool July evening in Montana. From “Pick Your Head Up” to the closing “Everybody Got Soul,” Uncle Lucius kept the crowd on the dance floor and rocked out, leaving those not on the dance floor in a state of disbelief, especially those who came for “Wolves.” It was easy to spot these fans, as many flocked to the stage with their iPhones as Gallagher strummed his acoustic and Grossman played his melodic accordion part.  

Galloway says “Wolves” is a gift because it gets people in the door, and that’s all Uncle Lucius needed. This tour they’re seeing 400-500 people at most shows (even in Nashville, which is no piece of cake), and have had some sell-outs, too. Five years ago they called it quits. They struggled to get people out to shows – especially in the United States – and it was discouraging, especially considering the praise and critical acclaim they’d received in certain pockets of the world. They knew what they had. 

Now, with “Wolves” appearing in “Yellowstone,” and a few other lucky breaks (like a K-Pop girl group Blackpink including “Somewhere Else” on their songs of the summer playlist and Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber using  “Wolves” as his walk-on music during the 2016 World Series), the tides have turned, and Uncle Lucius does not take it for granted – certainly not in Helena. All six band members appeared to experience moments of euphoria, especially Galloway, who would look over at Carpenter and Strahan going back and forth, one hypnotizing solo after the next (including some epic harmonious Allman Brothers style solos), and grin from ear to ear. He’d give Grossman the same look when he’d solo, be it on keys or accordion. The joy written on his expression was contagious. He was at peace, and so were we.

The show was full of monumental moments. One of my favorite parts was getting introduced to their new material. Next month they’ll release a new single, and soon they’ll drop a new album. Those of us in Helena got to hear five of the new tracks, and  “Keep Singing Along,” “I’m Happy” and “Holy Roller” indicate it may be their best work to date.

Uncle Lucius also played many tracks from their previous three albums, with highlights including “Rosalia,” (featuring Grossman on some vocals), “Pick Your Head Up,” “End of 118,” “Pocket Full of Misery,” “Ouroboros” and “New Drug,” a gospel-infused jam where Grossman took us all to church with his organ-playing and soulful singing. 

There were a few surprise covers as well, including a heartfelt, tender Merle Haggard slow dance, “Going Where the Lonely Go.” It was the perfect song selection as the sun started to set, the grateful crowd captivated by the offering of passion, love and astonishing talent.

And then came “Wolves,” the gift that keeps on giving.

For upcoming music, tour dates and more, keep tabs on Uncle Lucius here.

Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Kevin Galloway Steps Out With Beautiful New Solo Album

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