Under Review: Reverend Horton Heat – Laughin’ & Cryin’ With The Reverend Horton Heat

In the past, they’ve often skewed more towards the psychobilly end of the garage rock spectrum, but the Reverend Horton Heat are country guys at heart.  Previous albums averaged a handful of straight-up country mixed in with the rockin’ freakouts, but their latest album, Laughin’ & Cryin’ With The Reverend Horton Heat, finds the trio at their down-homiest.  Musically, the guys are as tight as ever, not surprising considering that they’ve been touring on a constant basis since their last proper studio album, 2004’s Revival.  Though Laughin’ & Cryin’ is not as raucous an album as some of the Reverend’s others, it is nonetheless a tour de force and a great step forward in the band’s evolution.  Laughin’ & Cryin’s sound is distinctly honky tonk, with barrelhouse pianos (“Please Don’t Take The Baby To The Liquor Store”) and shimmering lap steels (“Beer Holder”) rounding out the band’s guitar/upright bass/drums attack pattern.  Jim “Reverend Horton” Heath’s lyrics are as delightful as ever, with some of the best songs being ‘educational’ or otherwise poignant in nature.  The first lesson comes early on with “Ain’t No Saguaro In Texas,” in which we Yankees are informed that those classic two-armed cacti aren’t native to the Lone Star State, and “Oh God! Doesn’t Work In Vegas,” which pretty much speaks for itself.  At the record’s center is “Rural Point Of View,” which handles the ‘green’ movement in the same satirical way “Bales Of Cocaine” handled the war on drugs.  The band hasn’t strayed from its surf influences, as heard in the two instrumentals: the Santo & Johnny-ish “Spacewalk” and the western-swinging “Oh By Jingo!”  Those who are used to the Reverend’s manic live shows might be disappointed with this decidedly controlled album, but if they would actually listen during the concerts (as the Reverend wants them to), they would find that the band is and has always been equal parts ‘rock’ and ‘-billy.’

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~ by E. on September 4, 2009.

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