Country/bluegrass legends Flatt & Scruggs are locked in a room with a palette of beer and several Frank Zappa albums. The outcome? The Austin Lounge Lizards. Proudly known as the "The Most Laughable Band in Show Business," the Lizards have experienced numerous personnel changes during their lengthy history, yet founding members Tom Pittman, Hank Card, and Conrad Deisler have fueled the local band's pickin' and chucklin' spirit unceasingly. Of course the band wouldn't be nearly as good as it is today without current Lizard veterans Lex Browning, Boo Resnick, and Richard Bowden, and since all three are multi-instrumentalists, it's better perhaps to list their weapons of choice: mandolin, acoustic guitar, acoustic and electric bass, steel-string acoustic guitars, banjo, pedal steel, and fiddle. The Lizards know the bluegrass canon like barflies know beer coasters, but they infuse the genre with honky-tonk, rockin' surf, hillbilly, folk, and Western swing. That said, the band is probably best-known for their always-amusing if occasionally corny lyrics, and so far the band has successfully walked the minute line between novelty act and style creator. You might not like their brand of burlesque bluegrass, but you have to confess they're good at what they do. With 2000 marking the group's 20-year anniversary, stalwart bluegrass label Sugar Hill reissued most of the band's catalog last year, and has most recently released the band's latest album, Never an Adult Moment (see p.68). Given the Lizards' refined instrumentation and multipart harmonies, it's no surprise that the overall quality of the band's commercial releases is fairly even. So much so, in fact, that, aside from the various release dates, there's not much to distinguish one album from another. They don't have an operatic concept album, a gospel album, or a reggae album, each release simply being yet another installment of the Lizards' unique brand of tongue-in-cheek, flatpicked harmony, all of them with a handful of standout tunes. Highway Cafe of the Damned (1988), for instance, includes the somewhat dated, but still quite funny, "Ronald Reagan" and "Acid Rain." Small Minds, from '95, contains a drunk, horn-seasoned version of Emily Kaitz's Kerrville fave "Shallow End of the Gene Pool." Employee of the Month ('98) wins for being the band's most adventurous outing in the studio, and includes the oh-so-fitting "Stupid Texas Song." Unfortunately, the crew's 1996 live outing, Live Bait, is a flat spot, with its six songs having been recorded well (in particular "Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs"), but the live renditions don't really differ much from their studio ancestors, and the album itself lasts only 20 minutes. Then there's the band's christening, Creatures From the Black Saloon, which features the satire-cum-tribute "The Car That Hank Died In," the Eighties-capturing "Hot Tub of Tears," the Nashville-flavored "Keeping Up With the Joneses," the Devo-inspired "Kool Whip," and the banjo-matic "Chester Woolah." Twenty years of Lizard history worth delving into, and with a strong new album out, it could be another 20 for the mischievous lads.
The Catalog: Pickin' and Chucklin'