The Reverend Horton Heat is the stage name of American musician Jim Heath. The singer, songwriter and guitarist and his Dallas-based “pyschobilly” trio is called one of the most popular underground acts in America. Photo illustration by Tony Barriatua
Consider yourself warned. Advance press on the Reverend Horton Heat promises a performance that will have people waving their hands in the air, dropping to their knees or, at the very least, singing "God Bless Texas."
Their sound is self-described as "country-fed punkabilly," while some of their songs are called "psychobilly," which is why their music requires a variety of genres to explain. It's a mix of country, punk, big band, swing and rockabilly, all loud, energetic and riddled with lyrics that will make you laugh out loud.
Heat is bringing new songs from his latest album, "Laughin' & Cryin,'" a country-heavy tribute to the 1950s and '60s with tunes about bad habits, well-meaning but clueless husbands, award-winning beer guts and Texas.
But before they get to that, the audience will be treated to special guests Nashville Pussy, described as genuine rock 'n' roll—earthy, raw and unadulterated. After traveling with The Heat around the world, the band has released "From Hell to Texas."
"We allowed ourselves this time to give the songs the chance to turn out as perfect as possible," explained band mastermind Blaine Cartwright in a release about the album. "We kept playing new tracks at our rehearsal room until they really clicked. I feel they are heavier and grittier than previous releases."
The Reverend didn't have time to return a phone call before the deadline, but he's left a trail of stories and songs in his 20-plus years of traveling and singing thicker than any one Bible can hold.
The group originally formed in 1985, playing its first gigs in Dallas's Deep Ellum neighborhood where their manic and prolific (up to 300 dates a year) stage show became legend. Its current members are Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath on guitar and lead vocals, Jimbo Wallace on the upright bass and Paul Simmons on drums.
Though definitely unique, the band has achieved success in mainstream America with many of its songs being featured in video games ("Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3," "Redneck Rampage," "Space Bunnies Must Die"), sitcoms ("Drew Carey Show") and even movies like "Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," "Major League 3: Back to the Minors" and "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls."
"Laughin' & Cryin'" represents a bit of a detour from earlier records such as "Revival," released in 2004. Heath has said the change is all part of being entertaining, and that it was his intention to get some more of the crowd-pleasing funny, country-tinged songs.
Heath, who personally says on his website that he loves "good old, mid-20th century country music," said this record was not intended to expand the listener's horizons, just have a little fun and warns that his next record may just be a set of "avant-garde versions of Swahili folk songs done on homemade instruments. Never say never."
This record, though, is "kind of from a regular-guy point of view," Heath said.
"You know, I like to do stuff that's kind of tongue-in-cheek that makes fun of the good-old-boy thing as much as trying to glorify the country-boy thing," he said.
Heath said he originally conceived the new record as the product of an alter ego, Harley Hog, a sort of "laughing and crying" singer.
"I was trying to develop this vocal style where I was always either laughing or crying, it was really over-exaggerated," Heath said.
The problem once they got in the studio, however, was that "we wouldn't get that far because the guys were just laughing so hard. It was really kind of ridiculous."
What evolved, he said, was "a trip back to a time before slick, over-produced country became the norm—a time when outlaws wrote songs about being without a pot to piss in—or at least about psycho ex-boyfriends and deadbeat girlfriends that spend your paycheck faster than you can say 'Lone Star.'"
Or "Beer Holder," a honky-tonk song about a guy who can't quite reach the table to set down his beer so he settles it on his belly. Charming, right? Maybe not to Idaho, but take it from me, a Texan, it's oh so Texas, and therein lies the charm.
Prepare for the Heat:
Tonight, Sept. 14 at 10 p.m.
Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door
Jennifer Liebrum email@example.com