The godfather of rockabilly, the perpetually touring Jim Heath, a.k.a. Reverend Horton Heat, chose to return to his customary old-school rock ‘n’ roll on his new album, REV, due out January 21st. This is a big deal (okay, not as shockingly big a deal as it would be if someone unexpected like, oh, Sting, decided to make a roots rock album, which is one of the final signs of the Apocalypse mentioned in the Bible), since his last offering, 2009’s Laughin’ and Crying with the Reverend Horton Heat, was a traditional country album he says was aimed to appease the die-hard country fans he plays for in Texas and the Deep South. The Rev says, “The last album really leaned country, and it was fun to do and everything, but we decided to get back to rockin’ on this one. The real epiphany I had was looking around at these country guys, and most of them want to be rockers.”
In addition to new material, REV includes an older song that will be familiar to fans who have seen his trio—with bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla—play live. Since his debut (Smoke ‘em If You Got ‘em) on the unlikely Sub Pop label in 1990, he has managed to outshine headlining artists like The Cramps and White Zombie, or come damn close. He often plays “Longest Gonest Man,” an early song from the mid-’80s.
The Rev told me during a phone interview last week:
Several years ago we opened up for The Sex Pistols, and I guess this guy named George Gimarc is a famous DJ who lives in Dallas, and he also had a really influential early punk rock/New Wave show [The Rock & Roll Alternative on the University of North Texas’ KNTU and later commercial station KZEW-FM] back in the early ‘80s. I think he was friends with Johnny Rotten and he sent him our first demo tape that we ever did. I had no idea. Johnny Rotten told me about that and was talking about “Longest Gonest Man.” That’s kind of wild, because that song was the first song on the first demo we ever did. It‘s kind of crazy it’s just now making an album.
It’s got a rockabilly-country vibe to it, and we had other songs that were fitting the bill in that department at the time, so there just never there was never quite enough room for that one until now.
Speaking of George Gimarc, praise your deity of choice that he is such a pack rat… I mean John Peel-grade archivist, because he has been putting his Rock & Roll Alternative show archives online. During these once oft-taped and traded shows you can hear, among others, Rotten himself, a young Bono being interviewed, and Elvis Costello acting as guest DJ.
Early Reverend Horton Heat, “Longest Gonest Man”: