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Live music review: Reverend Horton Heat mixed new material with old at Emo's

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Reverend Horton Heat at Emo's


Saturday evening Reverend Horton Heat played some smoking guitar at Emo's with Two Tons of Steel from San Antonio and Austin's own Dale Watson. Jim "The Rev" Heath showed off his massive guitar chops on his signature Gretsch hollow-body. Bandmates Jimbo Wallace (upright bass) and Scott Churilla (drums) were just as impressive. Wallace demonstrated his slap technique on the bass while Churilla twirled his drumsticks at every opportunity while keeping perfect time. Heath even invited Two Tons of Steel guitarist, Brian Duarte on stage for an old-fashioned guitar duel. It was a fantastic night of classic rock 'n roll punctuated by bouts of rockabilly, country and swing music by amazing, veteran performers.

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The trio from Dallas led by Jim "The Rev" Heath have their first album (REV) in four years due out January 21 on Victory Records. RHH signed a three album deal with the Chicago indie label late last year. It will be the 11th studio album by a band formed in the mid 1980s that attracts loyal fans after years of relentless touring. From the sound of the new material the album appears to be as good or better than "Smoke 'Em if You Got "Em (1990), the album that put Horton Heat on the music map. Check out the video for new song, "Let Me Teach You How to Eat" below.

RHH opened with a new tune, "Gasoline" then played what might be their most well-known single, "Psychobilly Freakout." The song has a lot to do with why Reverend Horton Heat is often referred to as a psychobilly band when Heath adamantly insists their sound is not true to the genre that came out of England in the 1970s. Psychobilly is the combination of punk and rockabilly. While there are elements of both genres in the band's sound, they also play other styles of traditional music.

"We're not really psychobilly. Because a psychobilly is a type of music, there's some great American and worldwide great psychobilly bands, but it's basically something that was started in Europe in the late '70s, early '80s. With rockabilly, the rockabilly guys that were more punk rock than maybe straight rockabilly would have been. Back when I was first starting out, we were like a rockabilly band that was just a little bit more turned up and a little bit more aggressive, because we were writing our own songs. But I wrote a song about 1989 called "Psychobilly Freakout."

And at that time a lot of the punk rock people and kids in America and a lot of the alternative fans in America never heard of psychobilly, they didn't know about all those bands: The Meteors, Guana Batz, and Batmobile. But they heard where I was doing heavy hitting psychobilly, where I really hadn't, I just had a song called "Psychobilly."

-Jim Heath from interview

During the set, RHH played "It's Martini Time," new tunes, "Let Me Teach You How to Eat" and the whimsical, instrumental, "Zombie Dumb." They even covered Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" in honor of the Christmas holidays. The highlight of the set was Duarte joining Heath on guitar where the two exchanged riffs seeming to challenge the other to duplicate the notes. Heath spent a few moments before bringing his guest on talking about his talent and suggested fans pick up a copy of Two Tons of Steel's new album, "Unraveled" with Duarte on the recordings. It looked like the two musicians were having as much fun as the audience.

Reverend Horton Heat continue their tour with stops in Denver, Salt Lake City, Chicago, New York, Boston and more U.S. cities before returning to Dallas for a homecoming show April 12. See all remaining tour dates on the RHH website.

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