Lords of the Highway

Haulin' Ass (Mother Truckin' Tunes)

Century at the Ritz-Carlton / The Bertram Inn & Conference Cente 515 West Third Street (Tower City) / 600 North Aurora Road, Auror Century at the Ritz-Carlton
515 West Third Street (Tower City); Sunday brunch served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 216-902-5255

The Bertram Inn & Conference Center
600 North Aurora Road, Aurora; Sunday brunch served 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 330-995-0200

When it comes to the kind of deconstructed, truck-stop rockabilly that the Lords of the Highway trade in, high concept is pretty much confined to the complicated, gravity-defying hairdos of Southern Culture on the Skids bassist Mary Huff. But leave it to the liquored locals in Lords of the Highway to bring a bit of high-mindedness to a genre in which ambition is often measured by the height of one's bangs.

Now, this isn't to suggest that the Lords are overly enterprising or adventurous; it's just that they have a real flair for the dramatic. This is marked most prominently by a 15-minute redneck soliloquy that closes Haulin' Ass. In the past, the rock opera has been solely the conceit of haughty metal blowhards like Savatage. But on "Truckman Episode 13," the Lords one-up those longhairs with an extended narrative that chronicles the misadventures of a dim-witted trucker. It's cheesy and silly, but also illustrative of the band's rare taste for the elaborate in a scene that's normally all about economy.

And that's not all that distinguishes the Lords from all the other honky-tonk hitchhikers out there. The surprisingly robust, sub-Slayer double-bass drumming of Scott Ling gives the Lords considerable ballast and heft. It's only fitting, as there's nothing that's not steeped in excess when it comes to this band. Think the Flying J, artery-impeding grub, tall boys, and heartburn. Vocals alternate between the oversexed coo of Sugar and the drunken bleat of Dennis A. Bell. Damn near every song is about drinking, driving, and drinking and driving. It all goes by in an intoxicated haze, just like the one you'll wake up in after a night with this disc.

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