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Highway Cafe of the Damned

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Album Review

The Lizards second release captures both the time of its creation — the late Reagan years, underscored by a perverse ballad about the man himself — and the group's own wonderfully offbeat and definitely left-leaning vision of the universe. The opening, three-minute title track showcases the band's balanced strengths. On the one hand, they simply cook in ways that Bill Monroe would be proud of: straight-up bluegrass without gimmicks, with main singer Card possessed of a voice easily and simply described as "mighty fine." On the other hand, the tale of a purgatorial greasy-spoon, where the protagonist demands both coffee and Kafka from the demonic waitress while "the radio is playing Barry Manilow incessantly" sparkles with a rapid-fire wit that most bands could barely dream of. From there on, it's a romp through a dozen slices of Americana seen with some highly warped visions — thus the regretful musing of the gay émigré from Nebraska stuck in San Francisco in "Cornhusker Refugee" or the reverse generation-gap knee-slapper "Get a Haircut, Dad." The Lizards' grasp of musical styles is both playful and skillful. As a band, they're able to take in everything from Bob Wills-style western swing to straight country, and other lead singers Williams and Deisler work the mike just as well as Card. From start to finish, a perfect delight.

Biography

Formed: 1980

Genre: Country

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Regarding their name, Austin Lounge Lizards guitarist and founding member Conrad Deisler said: "I think it was a slang term I'd heard my grandmother use to describe gentlemen of easy virtue who hung around in bars. When we started out, that's just what we were doing — hanging out and playing for beer and tips and stuff like that." The Lounge Lizards trace their origins back to the late '70s, when Deisler, then a Princeton student, hooked up with Hank Card to indulge their shared interest in...
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Highway Cafe of the Damned, Austin Lounge Lizards
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