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Reverend Horton Heat returns to spread the word of rockabilly good times



Reverend Horton Heat with Deadbolt
8 p.m. Thursday
Diamond Ballroom
8001 S. Eastern
(866) 977-6849
$20 advance, $23 door

The cover of Reverend Horton Heat's most recent album features a clown bedecked in suspenders, a cowboy hat and a red-and-white-checked bandana.

The mixed clown/cowboy motif captures the spirit of the disc, "Laughin' & Cryin' with The Reverend Horton Heat," which boasts a more country-inflected sound for the rockabilly-minded Texas outfit, and a return to the lighthearted touch that produced such classics as "Bales of Cocaine" and "Wiggle Stick."

Heat is the moniker of Jim Heath, as well as the name given to the his trio. "Laughin & Cryin" is the group's 10th release, and Heath felt it necessary to return to the humor after 2004's more serious-minded "Revival," which featured odes to his dead mother and friends who died from drugs. In the interim, the Rev. also released a Christmas album and birthed a new trio, dubbed Reverend Organdrum.

"I had the idea quite a while back that I wanted to make a classic country-sounding album, and so I was kind of working to that end and I realized, listening back to some of our older stuff,  that the serious songs weren't working. I kind of wanted to make it where none of the songs were really serious," Heath said. "The serious songs that I do have, some of them I think are really good songs. So I can't say I'm going to abandon that thing forever. But first and foremost, music should entertain."

The result is an record with a country flavor and a comic tone that extends from the polka-infused cactus ode, "Ain't No Saguaro in Texas," to the Western swing beer-belly anthem, "Beer Holder," and the bouncing old-fashioned rockabilly beat of "Please Don't Take the Baby to the Liquor Store," which notes, "That's not the kind of bottle he's been crying for."

His partner in Reverend Organdrum, Hammond organ player Tim Alexander, also lent a hand, contributing arrangement ideas and adding piano flourishes here and there. Alexander will join the band for part of Thursday's show at the Diamond Ballroom.

While he enjoyed making the album and his time in the studio, Heath much prefers the live setting, which he considers a musician's true calling.

"The studio is not even an art form," he said. "It's just like making an advertisement for your band. It's a real shame most musicians think they're artists. They have it backwards. They're not really artists; they're just in the advertising business."

The band recently returned from a tour supporting Motörhead, which Heath said was a fun challenge.

"Every year or so, we used to do a run of dates where we opened up for a band, like the Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, ZZ Top and quite a few other groups," he said. "We hadn't done that for a long time, so to get to go out with Motörhead was cool. It was interesting because we had to go out there and win over a lot of their fans. They almost would not clap because they didn't know if they liked us or not. It's like, 'Oh, no, this band is almost country, what the heck? This is going to suck.' Then eventually, we would win them over."

Of course, there's no need to win over a typical Reverend fan who has been following Heath's sizzling guitar work and the punk-infused rockabilly he's been making the last 20 years.

"It's really lucky I made the decision I made," he said. "It goes back a long time ago, but just to basically be a career artist that plays music, and doesn't really go for the one-hit wonder or record sales."

Heath never did want a job in advertising. "Chris Parker

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