REVEREND HORTON HEAT - ROOTS OF THE REV.
Released - Pre-release of autographed copies (150) is set for February 22th - 2023 and for March 1st 2023 for the album. It will be released on vinyl, on all the main streaming platforms and bandcamp.com via Fun-Guy Records Reviewed by Rockin Rebel 18th February 2023.
The Reverend Horton Heat, the Roots of the Rev (volume one) born in Corpus Christi, Texas. A musician that plays in the genres of Psychobilly and Rockabilly. It’s a covers album featuring classic tracks from the early days of the legendary artist’s career. recorded at Fun-Guy Studios in Dallas and Dale Watson’s Wat-Sun studio in Memphis. Cover Artwork,Chris Wilkinson and Label Artwork was Mad Twins.
Band Members Rev Horton Heat (Jim Heath)– vocals Jim (Jimbo) Wallace - upright and electric bass Jonathan Jeter – Drums
Former members of the band over the years consist of. Jack Barton: upright bass (1985–1989) Bobby Baranowski: drums (1985–1989) Kyle Thomas: drums (1989.Patrick Bentley: drums (1989–1994)Tim Alexander: piano/keyboards (1996–present)Paul Simmons: drums (2006–2012)Scott Churilla: drums (1995–2006, 2012–2017)Matt Jordan: piano (Sep. 2017– Feb. 2019)Arjuna “RJ” Contreras: drums (2017-2020)
Review Every story as a beginning, the story for the Rev Horton Heath starts around 1985 in Dallas, Texas. In an area known for corruption between the streets, clubs and bars stood a venue named Deep Ellum where the young Jim Heath played. He was given the title Rev Horton Heat and he gradually built his band over the next few years. Recording for Sub Pop at Reciprocal Recording in Seattle and Crystal Clear in Dallas, releasing his debut album in 1990 “Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em” and then the story grew into an epic encyclopaedia of achievements. Albums, singles, films, and so on. But even the mighty master of his realm could not forget where the story began. So with all the facts given by the author himself we can begin the review and look into the pages on The Roots of Rev.
Track by track. “Rockin’ Bones” – (Rhodes-carter-nallis) Nobody in today’s scene of rockabilly will not know who Ronnie Dawson is or a track sang by him. And the Rev shows on this great version the full respect given to this artist, wiith slap bass and guitar leading the way to the unmistakable vocal of the rockin sound of Rev’s voice. This track was recorded at Wat-Sun Studio Memphis. Playing members on this track are Jason Smay – Drums, T. Jarrod Bonta – Piano and Dale Watson & Jim Heath – Background vocals
School of Rock and Roll (McClung) The rev lends his vocals to this 1958 smasher originally done by the great Gene Summers and his Rebels in 1958. It's been recorded by over 25 different artists and shows why it would be an influence to any budding artist. This version stays loyal to the original with its rockin rhythm and fast paced vocal. In his own words, the Rev reminisces the time he played with Gene: “playing guitar with Gene Summers on a show at Nick’s Uptown in Dallas. On that show it was shocking how wild of a front man Gene still was. He was rolling on and off the stage and jumping all around. That was one of my favourite gigs I’ve ever played”. Credits on this track go to Jonathan Jeter – Drums John Countryman – Piano and Recorded at Fun-Guy Studios.
“Ready Teddy” ( Marascalco- Blackwell) First made popular by Little Richard in 1956 but this version is credited to Elvis’s version of the same year when he performed it on the Ed Sullivan show. It was the greatness of the guitar player Scotty More who became a big influence on the rev. Here he does a carbon copy of that great Sullivan performance by the King. Jim Heath is on the drums on this track Recorded at Fun-Guy Studios.
“Three Days” (Nelson) Originally released in 1961 by Faron Young on his debut album. Willie recorded it in the same year for his upcoming album Teatro (his 45th studio album). The Rev showed his vocal range on this track taking his voice to the lower keys. His deeper chords tie in great with this modern version of a classic track. He quotes “Willie Nelson has been a huge influence on most all Texans including myself. I’ve had the fortune of getting to hang out with Willie a bit. Golf, bar-b-que, recording sessions, benefit gigs and parties.” Credits Jason Smay – Drums, T. Jarrod Bonta – Piano and Recorded at Wat-Sun Studio.
“Right String, Wrong Yo-Yo” (Perkins) No Rockabilly roots album could go without recognising the king of it Mr Carl Perkins. 1957 saw the release for the Sun recording star. The Rev remembers the legend well: “There’s not enough room for one of his extensive stories here on the back of this album, but I have to say this. Meeting Carl Perkins was the greatest celebrity encounter of my life. What a wonderful guy” He continues with the story of his friend and mentor Ted Roddy who brought his attention to this track. It’s a great version put together by the band and as always, a belter of new sounds and licks added to it. Jim on Drums, Recorded at Fun-Guy Studios
Big River (cash) “We got to open for Johnny Cash at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Johnny came into our dressing room for a bit before June Carter came in, grabbed his ear, and dragged him out. W.S. Holland was still on drums in the mid-nineties with Johnny Cash. After the show, he told me “You guys play like we wanted to play, but we weren’t that good!’” Another classic from the band giving it that certain touch of their own on the Johnny Cash vocal style. The song tells a story of a chase of a lost love along the course of Mississippi River from St. Paul, Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana on this sun records release from 1958.
“Make Me Know You’re Mine” (Schroeder – Hill) Brilliant vocals by the Rev on this track, slowing the mood down to give a heart wrenching version of the Conway twitty cover. The deep sound of the backing brings it into Heartbreak Hotel territory with its bluesy tone and deep reverb vocal tremor that sends the quivers down the spine. The Rev says, “Conway Twitty’s early rockabilly and rock and roll is some of the best ever.” And you can’t argue with that.
“Little Red Wagon” (Fisher) 1956 rockabilly classic which is transformed into a great modern-day version. The childish opening is brilliantly covered and leads to a great vocal and backing and a great guitar instrumental break. Jason Smay returns to the Drums and T. Jarrod Bonta gives us the melody on the Piano. Recorded at Wat-Sun Studio – Memphis, Tennessee.
“Twenty Flight Rock” (Fairchild -Cochran) Well, we’ve got a treat on this track, changing from lead vocals to backing vocals for the Reverend to allow Jimbo Wallace to step forward and rock the lyrics to this ultimate rocker. The Rev picks up the story: “Reverend Horton Heat had just finished a gig in Houston, and while we were tearing down our gear, a rockabilly looking guy was up on stage talking to Jack Barton (the first bassist for Reverend Horton Heat). I wasn’t really paying attention until Jack let this guy try out his bass. The guy started slapping the song “Twenty Flight Rock” and it sounded great! The guy was Jim Wallace and while Jack wasn’t looking, I went and got his number. Within about six months, Jimbo Wallace joined Reverend Horton Heat.” So, it’s fitting that Jimbo sang the lead vocal on this recording of that song. He did a bang-up job! Oh yeah, he played bass too. Recorded at Fun-Guy Studios, Dallas, Texas.
“Lights Out” (Rebenmack – Seth) John Countryman really thrashes the Piano on this version. This has always been a favourite of mine but I think I’ve found my new favourite version. High octane mix from the guitar and piano brings this alive. Vocally superb once again from the rev. Lights Out was originally released by Jerry Byrne in 1958 on specialty records. “I have no personal connection to anybody on this track except for, of course, Ted Roddy, but back in my early years, this song really made me realise just how full-tilt the early rock and roll could be and I was very inspired by it”. Recorded at Fun-Guy Studios.
“Crazy Crazy Lovin” (Carroll) A great track, but I think the Reverend should tell the story. “In between Teddy and the Talltops and Reverend Horton Heat, I was living inside Russell Hobbs’ Theater Gallery. There were several eclectic and cool people living in this warehouse turned art gallery/music venue in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas. Theatre Gallery was the first music venue that really brought back popularity to the historic area, and I was glad to be part of the scene. I ran sound and helped produce a lot of the shows there. One day this older guy who looked a lot like Salvador Dali showed up and I found out that he was one of our newest ‘tenants’ in Theater Gallery. He said his name was J.G. Tiger. When he found out that I was a rockabilly guy, he told me that he made the film “Rock Baby - Rock It” which featured four songs by Johnny Carroll. J.G. also mentioned that he wrote two of Johnny Carroll’s songs in the movie – “Crazy Crazy Lovin’” and “Hot Rock”. I eventually found out that he didn’t make the movie, but he possibly did write those two songs even though my licensing company credits Johnny Carroll as the writer – there are pictures of the original record labels for this song that credit J.G. Tiger as the writer – who knows?” On this version Jason Smay is on Drums, T. Jarrod Bonta on Piano and Jonathan Jeter on Acoustic Guitar. Recorded at Wat-Sun Studio.
“Race with the Devil” (Davis – Vincent) One of the most iconic tracks from the 50s rockabilly genre. Although the Reverend remembers that it was actually the guitar player the great Cliff Gallup style caught his eye, Gallup’s right hand playing technique is based on a flat pick in conjunction with fingerpicks on his middle and ring fingers, using his little finger to work the vibrato bar. This band gives a great version of the track with full respect to both the vocals of Gene and the guitar playing of Cliff.
Summary Well, the first bit of good news is that this is only volume one, and I feel sure there could be a few more following the roots of this now legendary artist. The liner notes really do tell the story of how he came up through layers, working with and performing for some of the top artists from the rockin world, giving the Reverend his musical style that he is known throughout the world for now. He says it was a labour of love to do this album, but it clearly shows the respect and love of the music and the people within it that inspired him back then and still inspires him today. Recording engineer and mixing at Fun-Guy Studios was Jim Heath and the Recording engineer and mixing at Wat-Sun Recording Studio was Chris Burns. Credits also go to Joe Diliberto for the Mastering
Recommendation: Highly. Everybody should own this album.