Recently, the Reverend Horton Heat, aka Jim Heath, had something along the lines of what he calls an epiphany.
He’s a little tired of being taken so seriously-well, maybe not seriously, exactly, but you get the idea-and lately he’s noticed that some of his funnier, country-tinged songs were his biggest crowd pleasers. Besides, being entertaining is what this is all about, right?
So, ladies and gents, roll your smokes up in your sleeve and hold on to your cowboy hats, it’s time to take 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 exboyfriends and deadbeat girlfriends that spend your paycheck faster than you can say Lone Star.
Welcome to Laughin’ and Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat a record full of country-heavy tunes about bad habits, well-meaning but clueless husbands, ever-expanding beer-guts and, well, Texas. It wouldn’t be a Reverend Horton Heat record without a song or-in this case, two-about the Lone Star State. And, while Laughin’ and Cryin’ marks a detour from the hard driving punkabilly of the Rev’s last record, 2004′s Revival, this time tending toward honk, there’s still some shit-kickers ["Death Metal Guys"] to let you know that Heath and crew still mean business.
“I really wanted to capture the feelings of recordings of the late ’50s, early ’60s,” Heath said of the songs on the new record.
Exhibit A: Beer Holder, a honky-tonker about a guy who finds the table by his chair a bit too far of a stretch-so he opts for a new “beer holder,” his growing gut. While this guy finds his solution genius, his woman thinks otherwise.
“[The record 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.”
Heath 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, “we wouldn’t get that far because the guys were just laughing so hard. It was really kind of ridiculous.”
Without a doubt, the mighty Reverend has won a cult following around the world these past 20+ years with a nearly endless touring ethic and musical style that’s equally as rooted in tradition as it is in breaking it. He’s one of the lynchpins of the neoroots movement and responsible for moving the genre forward and garnering it a whole new generation of fans. Mix that with a mythic stage presence and you’ve got a live act that turns rock clubs into psychobilly tent revivals across the country 300 days a year.
Heath, who personally loves good old, mid-20th century country music, cautions that the record was not born out of a desire to introduce his audience to a new set of influences-it’s just meant to have a little fun. Besides, he warns, his next record may just be a set of “avant-garde versions of Swahili folk songs done on homemade instruments.”
“Never say never,” Heath said.