NEPA Scene Staff

Psychobilly pioneer Reverend Horton Heat plays solo at River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains on May 28

Psychobilly pioneer Reverend Horton Heat plays solo at River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains on May 28
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From a press release:

The world’s largest stages are no stranger to the Reverend Horton Heat.

Be it international rock festivals such as Coachella; Glastonbury; Reading and Leeds; punk’s biggest events, such as Riot Fest and Montebello Rockfest; country music’s flagship Stagecoach Festival; or even rockabilly’s call to the wild, Viva Las Vegas, their presence has been a constant since the band’s debut from Dallas, Texas in the late 1980s.

Delivering their unique fiery brand of 1950s-tinged country and jazz-fueled punk and metal, the group has paved their way to global cultural iconic status.

2016 saw the debut of the Reverend Horton Heat solo. For the first time in his storied career, the Rev, a.k.a. Jim Heath, performed a series of sold-out concerts in select intimate theaters and showcase venues across the U.S. to adoring reviews.

Combining new versions of Reverend classics with inside stories behind the music, the show flows like a version of “MTV Unplugged.” On full display will be the Rev’s wit, Southern charm, and some life stories that ultimately lead to the songs that made the band famous.

This rare opportunity to see the man solo comes to the River Street Jazz Cafe (667 N. River St., Plains) on Saturday, May 28 with Matt Witte and Jay Morgans.

Doors open at 7 p.m., and the 21+ show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets, which are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, are on sale via HoldMyTicket.

With their hot-rodded fusion of dazzling high-speed guitar runs, thundering rhythms, high-profile swagger, and lyrical smirk, the Reverend Horton Heat are perhaps the most popular psychobilly artists of all time, their recognition rivaled only by the esteem generated by the genre’s founders, the Cramps.

The Reverend (as both the band and its guitar-playing frontman Jim Heath are known) built a strong cult following during the 1990s through constant touring, manic showmanship, and a barbed sense of humor. The latter was nothing new in the world of psychobilly, of course, and Heat’s music certainly maintained the trashy aesthetic of his spiritual forebears. The Reverend’s true innovation was updating the psychobilly sound for the alternative rock era.

In their hands, it had roaring distorted guitars, rocked as hard as any punk band, and didn’t look exclusively to the pop culture of the past for its style or subject matter. Most of the Reverend’s lyrics were gonzo celebrations of sex, drugs, booze, and cars, and true to his name, his early concerts often featured mock sermons in the style of a rural revivalist preacher. On their 1992 debut “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em,” the group established the template of their no-frills, high-intensity approach to rockabilly, and though celebrity producers helped beef up the sound of their next two albums – Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers on 1993’s “The Full Custom Gospel Sounds” and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen on 1994’s “Liquor in the Front” – the Reverend’s essential style changed little with time.

They would explore a more introspective side on 2004’s “Revival,” embrace their country influences on 2009’s “Laughin’ & Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat,” and add a pianist to the mix on 2018’s “Whole New Life,” but on stage and in the studio, Heath and his bandmates could always be depended upon to deliver some of the twangy fire that their fans love.

With over one million albums sold and over 35 years in the game, Heath and company have been delivering blood-pressure-inducing scriptures to millions of fans worldwide. Call it rock and roll, psychobilly, or what have you, the Reverend Horton Heat is often considered an early architect of the latter genre (at least on this side of the Atlantic) and occupies a peculiar place in American musical terrain.

Their latest albums, “Rev” (2014) and “Whole New Life” (2018), were released by Victory Records.