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‘Reverend’ sheds light on storied past

Guitarist discusses band’s 10-year history, dispels Texas-size myths

Reverend Horton Heat’s performance Tuesday night at the Sunshine Theater went off without a hitch, just as the band’s annual stops in the Duke City usually do.

The Pabst Blue Ribbon was flowing; the show drew wanna-be greasers in flaming shirts and offered plenty of volume to clear the wax out of unsuspecting ears. And, as has been the case in recent years, the Rev brought a killer opening band — this time, the Nashville-based Bare Jr. — that treated Albuquerque to a brilliant set.

Bare Jr. hit the stage near 10 p.m. and blew the lid off the joint. Lead singer Bobby Bare Jr. hid behind a mane of curly hair and a dingy white cowboy hat but commanded the stage with his soulful vocal delivery.

The band’s raucous set was well received by the crowd and certainly provided ample warm up for the terrors from Texas.

The Reverend Horton Heat launched into its traditional show opener, “Big Sky” which evolved into “Baddest of the Bad.” For “I Can’t Surf,” The Reverend and bassist Jimbo Wallace took turns surfing on Jimbo’s flaming upright bass.

After “A Night in the Box” and “Big D Boogie Woogie,” the Rev duckwalked his way across the stage through an extended jam at the end of “Wiggle Stick,” which had his minions enraptured.

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But the real treat from the Rev’s tour-opening stop, at least for me, came earlier in the week when I had a chance to ask him some questions that I’d been dying to have answered.

Namely, the rumors about tent revivals deep in the heart of Texas, where Jim Heath honed his guitar skills.

Did he realize that he would spearhead a movement when the band started 10 years ago, and, what it was like in the band’s early days when thrash metal and grunge ruled?

“A club owner named Russell Hobbs penned me with the name without me really liking it,” Heath said in a phone interview from his Houston home. “I didn’t have a band — I had this solo thing going and he came on stage and said ‘Your name’s going to be Reverend Horton Heat. He walked off stage and afterward, people came up and were saying, ‘Reverend, Reverend.’”

Heath said the band’s publicists at SubPop records, the band’s first label, made up stories of him being a pool shark, an orphan and spending time in the Texas penal system.

He also said his band’s less-than-desirable pairing with the grunge rock label allowed them to rub elbows with some bands that would soon become very popular.

“With SubPop, they sensed we were a whole different market and we were already strong in the market,” Heath said. “We came out of the alternative and punk rock scene. We were playing the same rooms as Nirvana and Soundgarden, but they could sense that we had a market and a niche and that there was a group of people buying SubPop records. We helped that along.”

Heath said in the band’s formative years, he could sense that something special was happening.

“I kind of had that sense because we were rockabilly,” Heath said. “But at the same time when Reverend Horton Heat started, I was doing sound for punk shows. I like a lot of the straight blues, country, surf and everything, but I had an idea that that had kind of been done. What I wanted to do was add a little more of several different vibes within that framework, amp it up and do less of the cutesy rockabilly.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Behind countless tours and seven full-length releases, the band has created its lasting legacy. And even though the band currently does not have a record deal — Time Bomb Recordings, the band’s last label was bought out — Heath promises years and years of psychobilly to come.

“I think we’ll be doing this for quite a long time because we love to play music and that’s what we live to do,” Heath said. “There’s a lot of things we still want to do. I’m still growing as a musician, learning new licks and stuff.”

And how do the band wives deal with the relentless touring?

“We’ve been on the road for so long that they’re really used to it,” Heath said. “It gets hard sometimes being gone, but we’re kind of used to it. They know what to expect.” n


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