Concert Review - Austin Lounge Lizards
Cafe Lena, NY, 5/7/10 
By Glenn Weiser
Metroland, May 13
, 2010

Funny Folk
Austin Lounge Lizards
Caffe Lena, May 7

Seventeen years had gone by since the Austin Lounge Lizards, the fun-pokin’ pickers from Texas now celebrating their 30th year together, had played Caffe Lena, or “Caffe Layna” as they kept mispronouncing it. It’s too bad they haven’t been around more often, Southern speech impediments and all, because the quintet occupies a unique niche in acoustic music: Their stock in trade is satirical and often leftist, politically themed songs backed by tasty bluegrass instrumentation. Given how butt-ugly national politics has gotten lately, the Lizards’ merciless lampoonery was, for me at least, much-welcome comic relief.

The group’s three original members are Hank Card on rhythm guitar, Conrad Deisler on lead guitar, and Tom Pittman on banjo and Dobro. Fiddle and mandolin whiz Darcy Deaville joined in 2008; electric bassist Bruce Jones came on board earlier this year. All of them sing. They have won honors five times at the Austin Music Awards, and their rendition of Irving Berlin’s “(I’ll See You in) C-U-B-A,” can be heard in Michael Moore’s film Sicko.

The Lizards opened with Lindsey Eck’s “Too Big to Fail,” a populist swipe at the Federal bank bailout. “I want to be too big to fail, I want to steal and not go to jail,” sang Card. Tom Paxton had already used that idea in 1980, though, with “I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler,” written after Congress loaned the ailing auto giant $1.5 billion during the Carter administration.

“Life is hard, but life is hardest when you’re dumb,” began the next tune, sung by Pittman. At first I thought the song a bit unkind—hey, we can’t all be smart enough to choose the glamorous and lucrative career of a traveling folk musician. I stanched my bleeding heart later on when the band bandied Sarah Palin’s name about.

“Jesus Loves Me (But He Can’t Stand You!)” took aim at Christian fundamentalism. With lines like “God loves all his children, by gum. That doesn’t mean he won’t incinerate some,” the song mocked what the Lizards obviously see as the absurdities of Biblical literalism.

“Teenage Immigrant Welfare Mothers on Drugs” was another satirical broadside, which derided the scapegoating of illegal immigrants by the far right, and compared the US-Mexico border fence to the Berlin wall.

Funniest of all, however, was the nonpolitical “Hey Little Minivan,” a send-up of the Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe” sung by Card. Replete with cooing back-up harmonies, the juxtaposition of the wild kid whipping around hairpin turns in his fuel- injected hot rod who grows up to be a tame, middle-aged guy boasting of his SUV’s climate control and lumbar support seats was a scream.

Gotta laugh to keep from crying over the news headlines? Then these jaundiced-eyed jokers are your guys.

—Glenn Weiser

See the article on the Metroland website 
Index of Metroland Articles by Glenn Weiser    ©2010 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.  


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