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Reverend Horton Heat makes it look easy

Royale Boston, Boston, January 20, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Reverend Horton Heat has been going at it for three decades now. It hasn't always been easy, admitted Jim Heath, the singer and axe grinder for the Dallas-based psychobilly band.

But Heath have been talking about making a go of it in the musical business, one presumes, because if talking about the music itself, his two band mates could have charged him with blasphemy and heresy.

The fact of the matter is that Heath, upright bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla have very little competition in churning out ultra-fast, speedy, no-holds barred rockabilly. That would be obvious from the start with "Smell of Gasoline," where Heath showcased his picking skills in long instrumental passages.

With a big Gretsch guitar firmly in place, Heath coaxed lots of steely, twangy sounds out of his axe ("Never Gonna Stop It"), showing that speed alone would not be requisite. The guy is a superb player and is a more than adequate singer with his sort of whiskey-soaked voice.

His mates are no slouches either with Wallace slapping away on a pretty looking two-tone bass. Of course, there were a few nice rockabilly type moves with Wallace's bass sideways on the stage at one point with Heath jumping atop.

There's far more than rockabilly to what this band does. They weave in jazzy overtones along with punk and country ("Honky Tonk Night Time Man," a Merle Haggard song that suffered from an unnecessarily long drum solo). And Heath led his band in a scorching version of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," calling it "the most obvious cover song in the history of rock and roll."

And they also have a sense of humor with songs like "Psychobilly Freakout," "Zombie Dumb" (mainly an instrumental) and "Marijuana," which recalls "Tequila" (there are no lyrics save for the title).

Maybe Heath's right when he says the musical life isn't always easy, but give credit to Reverent Horton Heat for reality is otherwise.

The rest of the bill was more of a straight-ahead country sound, at least on the surface.

Veteran singer Rosie Flores opened with a too short 25 minutes of mainly covers including a commendably odd choice of "Pretty Vacant," the Sex Pistols song done country style. More in keeping with her roots, Flores also turned in Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" and Butch Hancock's "Boxcars."

Flores proved adept at handling her guitar as well, in a night where guitarists held court.

Dale Watson, one of the proponents of Texas honky tonk music, told the crowd just where it stood when it came to country music. "I hate country music," said Watson, who's pushing what he calls Ameripolitan music.

Watson has been on a bit of a rant for years, railing against where country music is today, at least commercially. He has nothing to do with the types of sounds coming out of Music City and has not for years both in song and comments.

Yet, somehow, it sure sounded like Watson knew his way around a (traditional) country song. When you start off with songs like ""Truck Stop in LaGrange," and "I Like When I Drink,' Watson may have a truth problem as well when it comes to laying claim to hating country music.

Watson did not drown his tears as he jokingly toasted Lone Star beer a number of times with bottle in hand.

Watson also was given too short a time on stage - 35 minutes - but he proved that there's nothing to hate about country music - at least in his hands.