Austin Lounge Lizards on tour, celebrating new CD, ‘Home and Deranged’
The Texas-based band Austin Lounge Lizards have been blazing a wickedly funny musical trail through topics as varied as politics, love, popular culture, and how to handle long-winded barflies for over 30 years, using bluegrass, country and Texas swing as the backdrop for their hysterical and satirical lyrics. This week and weekend, the Lizards have a series of Northern California and Nevada concerts celebrating the recent release of their tenth album “Home and Deranged.”
Since forming over 30 years ago, the Austin Lounge Lizards have been honing their trademark songs and show and getting people to laugh at everything from a comedic retelling of the mundane (“Hey, Little Minivan”) to warped versions of the expected (the deceptively sentimental “This Godforsaken Hellhole I Call Home”) to their clever skewering of American culture and politics (“Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers On Drugs,” “Too Big To Fail,” “Jesus Loves Me, But He Can’t Stand You”), to the outright fancifully bizarre (“Highway Café of the Damned”).
Quintessential Lizards songs feature wickedly and unassumingly clever lyrics that poke fun at everything within reach and well beyond into the realm of warped imagination. Combined with superb musicianship that features four-part vocal harmonies and instrumental prowess, the band’s music gets its punch from catchy melodies, topical yet surprisingly timeless lyrics, and use of a range of musical styles as suits each song. Album and song titles such as the ones above all point to the Lizards’ deftly funny wordplay and ability to seize a range of topics and spin them into witty and weird songs. The Lizards’ irreverent, eclectic, and eccentric approach certainly comes through on their albums, and sparks into full vivid life during their performances.
The Lizards got their start in 1976, when Hank Card and Conrad Deisler, both history majors at Princeton University, started writing songs together. After graduating both Card, an Oklahoman, and Deisler, a Texan, ended up at the University of Texas in Austin, where they met up in 1980 with banjo and dobro player Tom Pittman, who (as the Lizards say, tongues firmly in cheek) “had the right academic credentials (a degree in philosophy from the University of Georgia)” to saddle up and join in the musical adventure. Accompanied by a series of talented musicians, the band began playing local and regional dates; this led to national touring and a large and deeply devoted cadre of fans. Pittman (he of the lively banjo-picking and deadpan vocals) retired from the band in 2011, but core Lizards Card (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Deisler (vocals, lead guitar, mandolin), along with Darcie Deaville (fiddle, mandolin, vocals) and Bruce Jones (electric bass, vocals), continue the Lizard-style musical mayhem with gusto — or, as the Lizards put it, “less a banjo but no less eccentric”.
While the Lizards have kept up their touring schedule, it’s been seven years since their last album (2006’s “The Drugs I Need”). “Home and Deranged” features some songs that have become sardonically rousing audience favorites over the last couple years, including the Card/Deisler songs “Spelunking with Joe King Carrasco” (a darkly swirling musical saga based on a true story of Card going caving with the titular musician that effortlessly expands to include Tolstoy, Gilgamesh, Pikachu and a tour of the literal and figurative underworld), “Thank You For Touching Me There” (a slyly sweet Card/Deaville duet about the TSA), and “Enough About Me” (a soaring and faux-earnest skewering of musicians including, yes, themselves), as well as “Too Big To Fail” (by Lindey Eck), and songs by Deaville and Jones. In May, NPR’s Morning Edition Sunday featured an interview with Card and Deisler about the Lizards in general and “Home and Deranged” in particular; interviewer Rachel Martin described the CD as having “a little bit of attitude” and “a kind of snarkiness… to it”, to which Deisler and Card laughingly agreed. Lizards fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Austin Lounge Lizards’ up-coming tour includes a stop at The Palms Playhouse (13 Main Street in Winters, CA) on Friday June 14, where they’ve built up a deeply loyal fan base since first including The Palms in their schedule about 25 years ago. Tickets for the Lizards’ June 14 show at The Palms Playhouse are available at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, and at the door if not sold out. For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com or austinlizards.com.
The Austin Lounge Lizards’ up-coming CD release concerts include:
~ Thursday June 13—Club Fox, Redwood City, CA
~ Friday June 14—The Palms Playhouse, Winters, CA
~ Saturday June 15—Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, CA
~ Sunday June 16—Piper’s Opera House, Virginia City, NV