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CD of the Week – ReverendOrganDrum, “Hi-Fi Stereo”

January 9, 2008
Reverend Horton Heat (Jim Heath) is a fantastic guitar player.  He’s also crazy.  For the most part, you don’t want anyone walking into the church office to catch you grooving to Four Hundred Bucks, Bales of Cocaine, Marijuana, or Big Red Rocket of Love (to name only a few).  Yeah, the subject matter on his records is often, well, adult.Material like that has grown less common on his records since he’s grown up a bit, but the guitarwork has remained mindblowingly good.  Seriously.  I consider him to be Brian Setzer’s evil twin, and there really are strong similarities.  Both have Gretsch signature model guitars based on the 6120 Nashville.  Both play overdriven, open-throttle rockabilly with jazz and surf influences.  They even have similar sounding voices.  To be honest, I think Setzer has more chops but his original tunes can be a bit on the corny side.  Heat brings the intensity, the wildness, the reckless abandon.  Where Setzer’s rockabilly is tempered with jazz and swing, Heat’s is infused with the raw spirit of punk rock  – in a good way.What I’m trying to get around to saying is this:  if I woke up tomorrow able to play guitar like Reverend Horton Heat and never improved a lick, I would still be satisfied as a musician for life.  He’s that good.But he wasn’t satisfied.  Heath wanted to expand his musical horizons a bit.  So he got together with some other Texas musicians (organist Tim Alexander, a former member of Asleep at the Wheel with five grammies on his bookshelf, and Todd Soesbe, Heath’s next door neighbor!) to rehearse and record some instrumental music planted firmly in the middle ground between Freddie King, Ray Charles, the Ventures, Booker T and the MG’s, and the Rat Pack.  There is no bassist – Alexander plays the bass parts on the organ, allowing Heat a bit more space to fill with his guitar.And here’s the amazing thing.  Instead of going wilder, Heat also leaves more space allowing the music to groove and shimmy rather than slam.   He demonstrates genuine musicianship in this regard – a great guitarist can play a lot of notes, but a great musician knows which notes not to play.  What’s left is a fantastic potpourri of sounds ranging from the James Bond theme and the music from A Shot in the Dark (probably my favorite of the Pink Panther movies!) to Time is Tight, Bim Bam Baby, Hang ‘em High, a slowed-down grinding take on James Brown’s Night Train.  Chances are good that some of those titles mean nothing to you, but once you hear the opening notes of the music you’ll say, “Hey, I’ve heard that before,” or “I always wondered what that tune was called!”  All but two songs are instrumental.  The whole thing is just great.I ordered directly from the YepRoc records website. When you order a current release CD from them you can immediately download DRM-free MP3 files of the album so you can listen to the music while the CD is on its way to your mailbox.  Best of both worlds!  If you create an account with YepRoc, you can download a free MP3 of Hang ‘em High from your “Stash.”  I had no qualms about creating a YepRoc account – they handle Nick Lowe, Los Straitjackets, Southern Culture on the Skids, Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, Dave Alvin, pretty much the kinds of music I’m into right now.  You can also hear some full-length tracks at RevOrganDrum’s Myspace.
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