When it comes to rockabilly, the only thing bigger than the hair is the hyperbole. And so it comes as no surprise that the cover of the latest album from the Lords of the Highway boasts of "3 deadly sinners and an obscene display of rock-n-roll abandon," while the very title of the Capgun Cowboys' debut -- Girls, Cars and Smoke-Filled Bars -- drips with decadence.
But in a genre where towering coifs rule, where the music revolves around hot rods and hot women, subtlety is sacrilege. Especially to the Lords of the Highway, a band that's bawdy even by the Cramps' oversexed standards. They sing about lovin,' drinkin,' and pukin' -- and after hearing their awkward take on Danzig's "Twist of Cain," you may join the Lords in tossing cookies.
That misstep aside, Lost in Sin compensates with ass-shakin' slap bass, odes to truck-stop waitresses, and alternately snarling and sexy vocals, courtesy of singer-guitarist Dennis A. Bell and femme foil Angel. There are fleet-fingered instrumentals awash in reverb and sweat ("Spy on the Run"), growling rockers that are as overdriven as this stuff gets ("Damn U Miller"), and even a great, drunken waltz ("Devil Made Me Do It").
The Capgun Cowboys practice a bit more restraint, with a repertoire that includes honky-tonk, western swing, and lively two-part harmonies. The album's foot-stompin' rural shout-alongs give way to tears-in-my-beer ballads, all done with a knowing wink that's epitomized by song titles such as "Wal-Mart Wedding." Warm and vintage-sounding, Girls, Cars and Smoke-Filled Bars is characterized by spry strumming, rollicking backbeat, and quaint, layered vocals. The highlight is "Phone Call From Texas," a locomotive, trombone-infused throwback that would be right at home on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
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