Maria McKee :: My Favorite Artists

Maria McKee 1

Maria McKee :: My Favorite Artists

I picked up Lone Justice’s self-titled debut at a small record store by the beach. I’d not heard of them before, but a pretty boy with ocean blue eyes who was working behind the counter put it on while I was wandering the aisles with a friend and though it sounded more “country” then my typical taste in 1985 would usually venture into, Maria’s voice got my attention. The boy called their sound punk country, and that the album didn’t do them justice (pun-intended he laughed, batting those blue eyes at us flirtatiously) and that we just had to see them live. He seemed to think we were older than our teenage years, and we loved pretending.


Did I buy it because of the cute boy, or Maria’s voice? Probably the former, not that it matters much now as I kept loving the band, and Maria when she went solo, and I never saw blue eyed record boy again.

Shelter would come around the next year. It was a little less country, a little more mainstream, and I even caught their videos on MTV. I think it was around this album that they appeared on Saturday Night Live. The title song was their big hit, and though I did love it, it was the song Wheels that became my favorite track (still is, actually). It was heartbreakingly beautiful, and reminded me of a boy I loved who was painfully out of reach, but still so much a part of me.

Maria’s song in Pulp Fiction blew me away, a song I must have put on twenty or so mix tapes. It still makes it onto many a playlist now even. It was on the tour to support You Gotta Sin to be Saved that I finally got to see Maria live. She was incredible. I remembered what that boy had once said and I had to agree, no album could ever do her voice “justice“.

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I caught her again at Lilith Fair in San Diego a few years later. She even stood in front of my oldest daughter, then seven years old, in line for ice cream at the show. She turned to her and smiled, asking her what her favorite flavor was. After she’d walked away I’d wished I had told her how much her music meant to me, but maybe it was better this way, to talk about ice cream under the Summer sun, and bask in all the music playing around us.

Lone Justice

Maria Luisa McKee was born August 17, 1964. She was a founding member of the cowpunk/country rock band, Lone Justice, in 1982, with whom she released two albums. Several compilations of both previously released and unreleased material and a BBC Live In Concert album have been released since the group disbanded. Her band opened for such acts as U2, in the eighties

When she was 19, she wrote Feargal Sharkey’s 1985 UK number one hit A Good Heart, a song she has since recorded herself and released on her album Late December. Sharkey would later go on to also cover To Miss Someone from McKee’s self-titled solo debut, on his third solo album Songs From The Mardi Gras. In 1987 she was featured in the Robbie Robertson video Somewhere Down the Crazy River, directed by Martin Scorsese, and contributed back-up vocals to his debut solo album, which included the song. She released her first solo, self-titled album in 1989.

Her song Show Me Heaven, which appeared on the soundtrack to the film Days of Thunder, was a number one single in the United Kingdom for four weeks in 1990. McKee refused to perform this song in public up until recently, when she sang it for the first time in eighteen years, at Dublin Gay Pride.

Following her debut, McKee has released five studio (and two live) albums. The album Life Is Sweet debuted McKee’s lead guitar work. The raw postmodern album (produced by Mark Freegard) represented a smash up of her roots rock persona and is seen as a demarcation event in her career. It is now considered a minor classic and currently out of print. The later three, High Dive, Peddlin’ Dreams and Late December, were released independently via her own Viewfinder Records label (distributed in the UK via Cooking Vinyl).

In 1995, Bette Midler recorded McKee’s tracks, To Deserve You and The Last Time for her platinum album Bette of Roses. In 1998, The Dixie Chicks recorded McKee’s Am I the Only One (Who’s Ever Felt This Way?) and included it on their Grammy nominated album Wide Open Spaces.

McKee was featured on the 2014 compilation Songs from a Stolen Spring that paired Western musicians with artists from the Arab Spring.

In addition to writing Sharkey’s hit A Good Heart, McKee has also contributed to the Victoria Williams’ tribute album Sweet Relief, on the song Opelousas (Sweet Relief). She has also provided backing vocals to U2’s cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son, as well as to the Counting Crows’ 1993 debut August and Everything After on Sullivan Street and Mr. Jones.

On Robin Zander’s 1993 solo album she sang backing vocals for the track Reactionary Girl She also sang backing vocals on Robbie Robertson’s debut and self-titled solo album, on the track American Roulette Much lesser known is her contribution of lead and co-lead vocals on two tracks on a contemporary Christian praise and worship album called Come As You Are.

She performed If Love Is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags), the only original song on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. McKee also contributed a song Never Be You for the soundtrack to the Walter Hill movie Streets of Fire.

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My Top 10 Favorite Maria McKee Songs

1. If Love is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags),
from the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction

“I played on the table,
you held something back.
If love is Aces,
give me the Jack.”

2. Wheels
from the album, Shelter (Lone Justice)

“Wish you’d never even loved me.”

3. Only Once
from the album, You Gotta Sin to be Saved

“I’ve never been obliged to stay in one place for too long.
There’s a bad seed bred inside me and it keeps me movin’ on.
Have I ever been persuaded to give it up and stay home?
Was I tempted by an angel?
Only once,
only once.”

4. Ways to be Wicked
from the album, Self-Titled (Lone Justice)

“Well, I’ve been your fool before, honey,
yeah, and I probably will again.”

5. Dixie Storms
from the album, Shelter (Lone Justice)

“And the smoke on the street,
makes me wonder why I stay away,
from those gentle Dixie storms.”

6. I’ve Forgotten What it was in You (that Put the Need in Me)
from the album, Self-Titled

“Well,look into my eyes,
and tell me what you see, darling.”

7. You Gotta Sin to get Saved
from the album, You Gotta Sin to get Saved

“Well it’s not that I don’t love you,
I’ll love you honey ’til I die.
But I could never be your bride ’til I tame my wicked side.”

8. Shelter
from the album, Shelter (Lone Justice)

“Disillusion has an edge so sharp,
it tears at your soul and leaves a stain upon your heart.
I need you to wash mine clean.
You’ve felt it too,
and you need me.”

9. Sullen Soul
from the album, Peddlin’ Dreams

“You and my stars are in my head.”

10. Opelousas (Sweet Relief)
from the album, Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams

“Some find it in a bathtub,
or a back rub,
the clothes they wear,
or just in the air,
in the food they eat,
it’s something sweet – 
some sweet relief.”

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