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Laughin' and Cryin' With the Reverend Horton Heat

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Album Review

The Reverend Horton Heat may have started out as the loudest and wildest rockabilly act in all creation, but with the passage of time, guitarist Jim Heath and his rhythm section have mellowed quite a bit (particularly from It's Martini Time onward), and compared to their early work for Sub Pop, Laughin' & Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat sounds downright placid. Part of this boils down to thematic issues — with two songs about Texas, another about how intellectuals don't get people from the South or West, and one that actually gripes about how weird death metal guys are, Laughin' & Cryin' leaves a certain amount to be desired in terms of imagination and originality, and even when Heath comes up with a witty idea (comparing a busted romance to the Hindenburg on "Aw, The Humanity" or explaining why the Good Lord isn't likely to help you at the blackjack table in "Oh God/ Doesn't Work in Vegas"), the execution doesn't have quite the juice that would solidly bring it across. Heath's guitar work is still fluid and lively, but the melodies lack the energy and hot-rodded power he used to summon with ease, and bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Paul Simmons don't appear to be pushing him with any real conviction, though they keep time just fine. A shortage of speed and punch isn't the only major problem by a long shot — Heath's Rev. Organdrum side project was devoted to jazz and blues-based material that dialed down the tempo but sounded fresher and more engaged than most of the stuff on Laughin' & Cryin', which instead plays like the work of an act with talent to spare but not much in the way of new ideas or inspiration. The execution is skillful enough that Laughin' & Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat can get by on the impressive chops of the players, but anyone who spent much time listening to this trio in their heyday (or even as far back as 2004's Revival) can't help but feel a bit let down by this album.

Biography

Born: 1959 in Corpus Christi, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The Reverend Horton Heat is perhaps the most popular psychobilly artist of all time, really rivaled only by genre founders the Cramps. The Reverend (as both the three-man band and its guitar-playing frontman were known) built a strong cult following during the '90s through constant touring, manic showmanship, and a twisted sense of humor. The latter was nothing new in the world of psychobilly, and Heat's music certainly kept the trashy aesthetic of his spiritual forebears. The Reverend's true innovation...
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Laughin' and Cryin' With the Reverend Horton Heat, The Reverend Horton Heat
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