• Reverend Horton Heat – Whole New Life (Victory Records) Album Review

    Reverend Horton Heat – Whole New Life
    Released by: Victory Records
    Released on: November 30th, 2018.
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    Reverend Horton Heat, currently made up of iconic front man Jim Heath on lead vocals and guitar,
    Jimbo Wallace on the standup bass, RJ Contreras behind the drum kit and Matt Jordan on piano, has been around since 1986 – that’s well past three decades at this point, and a long time for any one band to stick around. But stick around they have, this Dallas, Texas based act now offering up their twelfth full-length studio recording in the form of 2018’s Whole New Life, available through Victory Records. And while this may be a case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ there’s something to be said for the band’s consistency over the years. Nobody but nobody mixes up traditional rockabilly, country, blues and psychobilly the way that the good Reverend Jim and his team do and this latest offering of eleven new tracks is proof positive of that fact.

    Picking up five years after their last release, REV, Whole New Life is their first with Contreras on drums and Jordon tinkling on the ivories, but it’s a warmer, happier and more upbeat album than the last couple have been and it’s sure to get anyone with decent taste in music tapping their foot and singing along from the opening title track, Whole New Life. This is two-and-a-half-minuets of ‘pure’ Rev, it’s got a nice, thick backbeat to it and both the bass and guitar playing really shine. It’s catchy as all Hell and the addition of the piano to it helps to fill out the sound nicely.

    Hog Tyin’ Woman is a three-minute bluesy, rowdy track sure to get your foot tapping and your hips swinging. Conceptually it’s not too far off from plenty of other Rev songs, a tale of hard times with the fairer sex, but again the playing is super slick. Hate To See You Cry is the second longest track on the album at almost four-minutes, and it’s a nice slice of country/rockabilly that really shows off Jim Heath’s guitar picking skills. This is just a seriously great piece of musical Americana, completely old school in its sound and timeless in its appeal.

    Got It In My Pocket is a three-minute rager, a raunchy bit of psychobilly played fast and mean – and it’s also quite sweet, as what’s in his pocket is a ring. Super slick bass playing from Jimbo on this one, some pretty fancy drumming too. This’ll make you want to shake it. The five-minute Don’t Let Go Of Me, the longest track on the album, slows things down considerably, letting Heath deliver some vocals that are as tortured and soulful as anything he’s done before. This one is also a bit blues-tinged, but the band has always had a knack for this type of material and this latest offering is no exception.

    Ride Before The Fall brings things back up to speed, opening up the four-minute instrumental with some great sounding western style twang courtesy of Heath’s guitar and backed quite nicely by the rest of the band, Jordan’s organ playing adding an interesting layer to the track. This segues quite nicely into the three-minute Tchoupitoulas Street, a piano-heavy track about having fun in New Orleans. It’s upbeat and catchy, the kind of song that makes you smile.

    The three-and-a-half-minute Sunrise Through The Power Lines is another song played fast and slick, this one is pretty polished actually, but it sees Heath doing some interesting growly humming with the vocals in a few spots that is kind of cool. It’s also got a very positive melody to it, like a lot of the music on this record it’s a happy song – and it manages to do this without coming across as corny or overly sugary.

    Wonky is three-and-a-half-minutes and it sees the band’s sense of humor shining through in a big way. It’s goofy track to be sure but it’s hard not to get into it, Heath’s trademark yelp in the background and the band’s super tight playing right up front in the mix. After that, we spend two-and-a-half-minutes with the album’s penultimate song, Perfect, a blazing piece of fairly traditional sounding rockabilly that, like everything else on the record, does a great job of showing off just how well this band can play.

    Closing out the record is a cover of Elvis’ classic Viva Las Vegas. Did we need another cover of this song? Absolutely not. It’s been done to death and honestly, the Dead Kennedys had the last word on it a long time ago. That said, credit where it’s due, this is done really well. And that sums up the album in general – adding the piano gives Whole New Life a slightly unique sound compared to some of the older Reverend Horton Heat albums but by and large Heath and company are sticking to the style that they’ve become famous for over the decades. No one is reinventing the wheel here, but when it sounds this good, you don’t need to.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Huh, moved fom Yep Roc I guess. I'll give this one a go through streaming, but honestly, they've never been the same without Scott on drums. And REV was terrible.