The formation of Uncle Lucius is a Texas tale in the truest sense. Four unique musicians of the Lone Star State, each living in their own hamlets, brewing up a dire need to put together a soulful southern rock outfit, sometimes can’t help but find each other.
Kevin Galloway’s campfire dream of starting a band began to take form in 2002, when the Freeport native left his East Texas banking job and moved to Austin with little more than a guitar and a truck. A country player all his life – he’d learned to play the guitar from listening to those “lovin’ and leavin’” songs that ran through East Texas – Galloway’s ears took quickly to the diverse array of rock-oriented music sprouting up around the Capital City. After three years of playing open mic’s around town, the singer/songwriter/guitarist met bassist/songwriter Hal Vorpahl through a mutual friend who knew the two could put together a legitimate outfit.
Hal Vorpahl’s story walks a similar path to Galloway’s. A native of 30,000-strong Lufkin, Texas, Hal’s musical background was built around a solid foundation of listening to Willie Nelson records with his father. He’d dabbled in the piano while growing up, but the 88 keys never quite caught on. Instead, it was the general mysticism of the vibrant musical scene that brought Vorpahl to Austin, and – as if he had any choice in the matter – he picked up the bass shortly after moving to town.
The current look of Uncle Lucius began to take shape when Houston’s Mike Carpenter entered the picture after the band’s first year. Raised on Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, Carpenter had been playing guitar and writing songs since the age of 14 and moved to Austin to play in bands. He played in two other bands before joining Uncle Lucius, a move that was made possible by the departure of the group’s original lead guitarist. Carpenter remembers feeling no sense of hesitation: “I immediately liked Kevin’s voice. He was a good front man and a good singer. And they were doing pretty much what I wanted to do: combining country, rock and roll, and blues. It was really just luck, man.”
With a practiced lead guitarist capable of enhancing the band’s already solid structure with a number of different looks in tow, Uncle Lucius started playing clubs like Austin’s famed Saxon Pub, Antone’s, and Threadgill’s. They’ve since established connections and residences, hooking up with David Cotton, the Austin-based booking agent whose an expert in the field of roots rock.
At about the time that Uncle Lucius was beginning to work on their second release, 2009’s Pick Your Head Up, their first drummer left the band. “We were going to use a studio drummer for the sessions,” says Galloway, “but then we got in touch with Josh. He came in, rehearsed, and, man, he just killed it. We figured it was a much better idea to use him than a session player.”
That’s Josh Greco, a San Antonio native who came to Austin for the University of Texas and quickly got caught up in the gigging scene going on downtown. Carpenter agrees with his lead singer’s sentiments about the drummer: “Now that we have Josh, we work a lot harder. We’re more dedicated, more focused.”
Raised on the deep-pocket precision of the Band’s Levon Helm, Charlie Parker’s Max Roach and Steve Gadd, Greco began working his way around a drum kit when he was 11. Originally, the choice befuddled him: “I wanted to be a fiddle player but somehow became a drummer. I don’t know how, but I knew I wanted to be making music when I got into that big band swing stuff when I was in 8th grade.”
With the current lineup intact, Uncle Lucius headed to the studio to record Pick Your Head Up. Its eleven songs are filled with southern-fried guitar licks riding soulful grooves, augmented by heartfelt lyrics that tackle “life and the mystery of it all.” The final product is a collection that evokes the work of the Black Crowes, the Band, and the great Stax Records albums of the 1960s.
It’s an album that’s tighter in large part because of the cohesiveness of the band itself. “We all h
Uncle Lucius’s tracks