Rhythm & Views

Major Lingo

If you were looking to tell the story of this band, the title of their seventh recording, Arizona Highway Band, might say it all.

For 25 years, Major Lingo have relentlessly toured our state, logging countless miles on their way. These 10 tunes, recorded live from 2001-2007, hold nothing back and show why Lingo continues to be such a vibrant and relevant sonic force.

Tony Bruno's otherworldly lap steel guitar, as usual, defines the Lingo sound, and his talents are showcased in a big way here. But it's the balance of his relentless improvisations against the vocals of guitarist John Ziegler and bassist Sally Stricker that makes this more than a simple jam fest. Lingo, in fact, sport a musical kinship that transcends raw chops, vocal and otherwise--an evolving legacy from so many shared miles and gigs.

In addition to three traditional tunes, including the surprising "Man of Constant Sorrow," AHB samples from the Lingo catalog, from 1985's memorial to John Belushi ("Belushi") and the ska-driven "Pretend," to "Memorial Day Part II" ("dedicated to all the cronies in the White House") and their tour de force arrangement of 1989's "Killing Season." Drummer Steve Botterweg co-produces and drives the big beat throughout with a combination of acoustic and electronic drums. He also contributes the instrumental "Hell Belly."

Unlike so many live records that attempt to minimize a band's excesses or eccentricities, AHB makes no such effort. At the same time, because most of the recording's playing and singing is so clean, you'd be hard pressed to know it was recorded live.

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