the Reverend Horton Heat–Texas Blues and Rockabilly
I’m still on my Texas music jag. I had my solid three days with Janis Joplin–okay, so Big Brother and the Holding Company was a San Francisco band–Janis was a Texas girl. I really liked what Buddy Holly did with his Stratocaster. Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, T-Bone Walker, yes, thank you. Give me more, please. The Reverend Horton Heat.
Jim Heath played in a cover band called Southern Comfort with friends from high school, before attending the University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 1977. At UT, he often entertained friends and dormmates and was often found playing in the stairwells at Moore-Hill Dormitory late into the night. Heath left school in the spring to join up with a touring cover band by the name of Sweetbriar. Three years later, former dorm mate David Livingston, now in his senior year of school and at home visiting family, saw a familiar face on stage and reunited with Heath. David told Jim stories of the punk music scene in Austin and the acts playing at venues like Raul’s and Club Foot. Once, while home on another visit, Livingston took Heath to a Dallas rock and roll venue, The Bijou, to see the Cramps. After the show, a brawl between punks and rockers broke out in the parking lot. While Heath and Livingston escaped any involvement in the scuffle, Heath later claimed to have had an epiphany on that evening. Always a fan of blues and honky tonk, Heath returned the favor by taking Livingston and his wife to see The Blasters in Dallas, starting his love for roots rock.
the Reverend Horton Heat–Where in the hell did you go with my toothbrush?
Sometime in the early 1990s, I was living by the tracks near the post office, when my buddy Brian came over with a 6-pack and a compilation record produced by the Sub-Pop label out of Washington State. It was on this cd, that I heard truth presented as I had never heard it before. Jim Heath, the good Reverend Horton Heat, upon coming home to a virtually empty house, poses the question Where in the hell did you go with my toothbrush? The truth, as my friends and I saw it, was in the good Reverend’s reaction to his situation. He was coming home from work or the Partisan, or wherever. He thought that everything was cool, until he got home and found that his woman had not only left, but taken everything of any possible value to him, left the unpaid bills, and disappeared.
I think the Reverend Horton Heat nailed it.
The Reverend Horton Heat has a sound that can be described as “country-fed punkabilly.” Some of their songs could also be described as psychobilly. The good Reverend creates music that is a mixture of country, punk, big band, swing, and rockabilly, all played loud and energetically with lyrics that are both clever and funny as hell. The band has achieved success within the rockabilly and psychobilly circles and even in mainstream America with many of their songs being featured in video games and television commercials.
I attended one of the Reverend Horton Heat’s revivals with a lady, in Petaluma, CA a few years back. After nearly 120 minutes of Texas rockabilly, we left the Mystic theater feeling energized and alive with the Spirit. We both felt comforted by knowing that we have a friend in Jimbo. And we know that any time we’re looking for Texas punkabilly salvation, the Reverend Horton Heat will always be there for us.