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Reverend Horton Heat: Rev

CD review

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Spawned out of the counterculture scene of Dallas's Deep Ellum neighborhood in the mid-1980s, Reverend Horton Heat serves up a hearty mix of rock swagger at surf-rock speeds. Rev (Jan. 21, Victory Records), a straight-ahead rockabilly release, is sure to please RHH fans and convert new ones.

Reverend Horton Heat frontman Jim Heath has defied labels by using rockabilly and an original mix of surf guitar, swing, jazz, country, blues and up-tempo rock.

But Rev, the band's first album in four years, is a return to its early music, with two blistering instrumentals, 10 riveting rock tunes and one country song.

The mostly instrumental "Zombie Dumb" is where Heath's love for extremes shines: Sudden drops from loud to soft are followed by a sweet, sustained guitar riff, which leads to a jolt of speed. RRH performed "Zombie Dumb" when the band played the Boise Knitting Factory Jan. 5, and electric guitar reverberated with off-the-wall spirit and spontaneity, driving home what Heath told Boise Weekly about performing live: "Playing for an audience is a type of streaming art form."

Rev delivers what RHH fans have come to expect of these Texans. Yet among these 13 tunes are signs of fresh adventure, like the high-octane romp of "Zombie Dumb" or the rockabilly swagger of "Mad Mad Heart." But none of the new sounds are likely to change anyone's mind about the rock 'n' roll flavor of RHH; and, with Rev, RHH makes a statement that could only have come from them.