The Rev.: redeeming the hardest of rock 'n' roll hearts

I don't know nothin' about this broad who's taking over the Dallas Observer's music section, but I bet the only question those Village Voice Media stooges asked her during the job interview was "Do you like Reverend Horton Heat?"

She must have said "No, and I'll trash him every chance I get," because that seems to be the position's sole requirement. Starting with Liquor in the Front in 1994 Observer music editors have dumped on every album that wasn't titled The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of... as if their jobs depended on it.

I'd just laugh every time they badmouthed him for daring to branch out from the sound of his first couple records. They completely missed the point. The Rev. is a musician, not a recording artist.


Reverend Horton Heat

Reverend Horton Heat performs Saturday, September 30, at the Granada Theater, with The Horrorpops and The Weary Boys. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Prophet Bar owner Russell Hobbs knew exactly what he was doing 22 years ago when he christened Jim Heath as the Reverend Horton Heat, because that dude can faith-heal a believer better than any backwoods, baptizin', snake-handlin' preacher. I made it to one of those early gigs after hearing tale of a hotshot psychobilly guitarist with a greaser double-bassist and the very devil on drums.

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I was no youngster even then and limped in to one of his Monday night shows with all the skepticism old age imposes. At the time, I was suffering badly from the gout and an embarrassing personal dysfunction that made it awful difficult to enjoy the company of the ladies, if you catch my drift. I figured it had something to do with drinking store-brand mouthwash and the not-so-occasional smack binges, or possibly from huffing Freon, vices I was not prepared to give up.

The Rev., almost as if he sensed a wounded soul in the room, looked me right in the eye, let out a gin-crazed "Woo-woo!" and launched into "Speed Demon." Every note from that descending slap bass, every lightning-fast hollow-body guitar lick seemed to penetrate deep into my soul. Suddenly, the afflicted foot felt brand new. I took one look at a nearby hot little punker chick and had a hard-on the size of Florida. I'd been healed.

Jaded non-believers might think I imagined the whole thing, especially if they knew how many tabs of Adam I'd consumed beforehand. But it happens every time I see him play. My new hip was hurting so bad before his last Dallas show I thought I'd have to miss it. But I toughed it out, and at that first sinister chord of "Big Sky" (yeah, he still opens with it and "Baddest of the Bad"--Why fuck with a winning formula?), I knew I wasn't going anywhere. Before the song ended, I was swing-dancing just on the edge of the mosh pit with some hot little GILF, asking her to show me her Bettie Page tattoo.

This Saturday, I'll hobble in with my walker (damn arthritis) and leave without it. If this new editrix indeed ain't a believer, hopefully she stops by to get cured of her cynicism.

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