Like A Rocket: Jamming with the Reverend
by Cullen James

Dallas, Deep Ellum, actually, is home to one of the best guitarists in music today, Jim Heath. Better known to the masses as The Reverend Horton Heat.

I had been a casual listener of the Revered for the past few years, but it's kind of silly how I decided to pick these guys up again for the critical listen a few months ago. Boston Market started using their Eat Steak song from their 1991 album Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em, in a new advertisement. I couldn't get the bit they play on the commercial out of my head so I needed to burn through some albums and flush my system with them again.

The first time I ever heard The Rev was in 1994. They played the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, opening up for Soundgarden. There was another band who played first, called UMI (from Australia, I believe). Oh, man UMI was bad, bad, bad, and didn't fit in with the rest of show. I'll get to The Rev in a moment, but Soundgarden also put on a surprisingly poor show. They were touring on their Superunknown album. It was amazingly well-received and the arena was full of teeny boppers who only knew Soundgaren for Black Hole Sun. It wasn't the crowd they wanted. At one point, just as guitarist Kim Thayil was about to break out into the fantastic solo for the song Superunknown, someone threw their flannel shirt onstage and it landed right on his guitar. Horrible. That pretty much set the mood for their entire set.

I felt so bad for them. I wanted a high-energy show. The guys in the band were not enthusiastic at all and it showed.

However, the middle band, The Reverend, was amazing. Spending most of my life in the south, I’d heard plenty of rockabilly and I was really into punk, but I had never before heard punkabilly. They shocked me. Being a metal/punk/grunge bigot (at the time), it was kind of hard to understand why they were at this show. They really didn't fit the Soundgarden sound and they were heavily country influenced -- anathema to me at the time. But, seeing them play live, you couldn't deny their musical virtuosity and verve. They were great.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't go out and pick up any of their tapes. I didn't look into them any further ... UNTIL you flash forward about 4 or 5 years. I'd joined the Army, pulled a 3-year tour in Okinawa and was stationed in Arizona. Most of the pals I make there were of the skate punk, neo-swing, punk, bowling shirt wearing, former goth crowd. Not fully my scene, but I could understand them. And, I got introduced to some bands that I now dig, but at the time hadn't heard. One night, watching the Drew Carey Show, I saw The Reverend Horton Heat pop up playing a rival band to Drew’s band -- "Oh, man," I thought. "I know them!"

Seeing them on the show was a catalyst. The next time I was over at one friend's place, I asked him if he had any of their albums. He had both It's Martini Time and Spaceheater. I absorbed them both and bought them myself. Over time I got their entire catalog.

Just look at him here plucking away on his Gretsch. It's awesome. He is so in his element playing live on a big Jazz-style guitar.

He's fast. He's adept. He's classy. The Rev may stick to pretty "normal" rockabilly style sound and scales, but he does it with his own feel. He throws in some odd notes and phrasing that makes it his own.

Many thanks to Boston Market for inspiring me to give them a critical listen again last year. They’re seldom far away from my CD player these days:

Eat steak, eat steak eat a big ol' steer

Eat steak, eat steak do we have one dear?

Eat beef, eat beef it's a mighty good food

It's a grade A meal when I'm in the mood.

Cowpokes'll come from a near and far

When you throw a few rib-eyes on the fire

Roberto Duran ate two before a fight

'Cause it gave a lot of mighty men a lot of mighty might

Eat steak, eat steak eat a big ol' steer

Eat steak, eat steak do we have one dear?

Eat beef, eat beef it's a mighty good food

It's a grade A meal when I'm in the mood.

And with that, Cullen's life was changed completely by the low-flyin' planes

Because I'm All About the Guitar Archives


I heard that they played that one at a show where Morrissey was in attendance and dedicated it to him. Morrissey stormed out in a huff. Even if that's not a true story it might as well be one.


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