Release Date: Jan 21, 2014
Record label: Victory Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Rockabilly Revival, Psychobilly
To do what Jim Heath has done as long as he’s done it—to work within such a tight framework of classic American forms across four decades and still sound not only fresh but electrifying is nothing short of astounding. It’s proof that, with the right artist, genre restrictions can create magic. Look at Hank Williams or Howlin’ Wolf. The Rev is of this tradition—having proudly taken up the torch of outmoded styles and revitalized them, traveling back through time, tearing them wet and wriggling from their wombs and dropping them on the doorstep of the unsuspecting now.
After releasing a Christmas album (We Three Kings), a couple of live sets (25 to Life and Live at the Fillmore), a disappointing country-leaning album (Laughin' and Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat), and a jazzy side project (Hi-Fi Stereo by RevOrganDrum), the Reverend Horton Heat has finally gotten around to making the sort of record his fans have been wanting to hear for close to a decade: a full-on fast-and-loud rockabilly set, complete with Jim Heath's trademark fifth-gear guitar work and pounding rhythms from bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla. REV doesn't break much new ground for this band, but in the truest sense that's the point: Heath and his bandmates have been taking plenty of detours in recent years, some satisfying and some disappointing, but REV is where they step back into their comfort zone and do what they do best. Heath's guitar work has never been a problem, and his blazing solos here are as impressive as ever, while the melodies, propped up by his thick rhythm lines, are simple, sturdy, and hold everything together no matter how fast and wild the players attack the music (and Wallace and Churilla clearly worked up a sweat on these sessions).
The Reverend Horton Heat have always been known for an oft-imitated, rarely well duplicated brand of psychobilly with their best tracks speeding along at 200mph and not letting up from start to finish. The opening track on REV, “Victory Lap”, seeks to remind listeners of this fact. Previous effort Laughin’ and Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat was pleasant enough, but came across as a bit too relaxed in places.