Reverend Horton Heat – “Whole New Life” (Victory Records)
Battle Helm Rating
‘…I’m afraid I’m on the Willie Nelson retirement program, which means I’ll never retire..!’ promises Jim Heath, sounding every inch a Texan. Sure enough, the Rev has been on the run since I first heard ’em on “Smoke ‘Em If Ya Got ‘Em” in 1990 to these days playing up to 200 shows a year. Renowned for their psychobilly with plenty of raw punk energy chucked in for good measure, Jim Heath and his good ‘ol boys have stood toe to toe over 35 years with Johnny Cash, Soundgarden, ZZ Top, The Cramps, Sex Pistols, Kyuss and Marilyn Manson – to name but a few! Aptly titled, this 12th release sees the arrival of new sticksman Arjuna Contreras and piano player Matt Jordan, who join Heath (vocals, guitar) and upright bassist Jimbo Wallace in fleshing out the sound on the 11 tracks making up “Whole New Life”. With a range of slow bluesy numbers and mid tempo rock n rollers, my true lurv for the Rev has to be those fast, intense rockers – of which I’m glad to say there’s ample givings here! From his signature Gretsch 6120RHH (as endorsed by Eddie Cochran and Eric Clapton) driving the psycho frenzy on the instrumental ‘Ride Before The Fall’ with itscool cowboy tremolo and catchy sliding riffs complemented by Contreras’s galloping beats, you can tell that despite his travels, there’s still a lotta country in Heath. ‘Wonky’ is another fast rock n roller, with Contreras’s hard beats contrasted by Heath’s crooning vocals and his electric guitar work drenched in reverb charging up the voltage with Jordan’s piano adding the finishing touch. But it’s on closer ‘Viva La Vegas’ where the Rev really brings in the ‘heat’ with this searing rendition of Elvis’s famous song, here given the Horton Heat touch in a more rockabilly rendition while keeping to the fast dancing beat and of course, those deep crooning vocals. “Whole New Life” shows there’s little plenty of kick from the Rev with just the right shot of new blood – damn, the boy done good!