When a reverend has an epiphany, it's usually important. And when a music fan has an epiphany that turns them into a rockin' "reverend," it's even more vital. Legend has it that in the early '80s, a young Texan named Jim Heath went to see The Cramps play in Dallas. After the show, there was a fight between rockers and punks, and though Heath reportedly stayed out of the fray, he did come to a conclusion that night: punk and rock can coexist, in the form of rockabilly, psychobilly, and punkabilly. Thus, the Reverend Horton Heat was born. Since 1985, Heath and his bandmates (upright bass player Jimbo Wallace and five different drummers, including current beatmaster Paul Simmons) have cranked out spring- reverb-filled country-punk anthems like "Big Red Rocket of Love," "Wiggle Stick," and "Psychobilly Freakout." But rather than ape the sounds of "rockabilly" bands like the Stray Cats before them, Reverend Horton Heat's cultivated a 'billy sound all its own, thanks largely to Heath's guitar — a signature Gretsch 6120-RHH that jangles, wails, and screams out of his Fender Super Reverb amplifier like a well-trained animal. The band's latest (and 10th) studio album, 2009's Laughin' & Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat, is perhaps the band's cheekiest release to date, with songs that poke fun at everybody from metalheads ("Death Metal Guys") to boozers ("Please Don't Take the Baby to the Liquor Store") and Heath's home state ("There's a Little Bit of Everything in Texas"). Plenty to laugh and cry about, which beats the heck out of a parking lot fight. — Niki D'Andrea
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