The Reverend Horton Heat is the torchbearer of break-neck reverb-heavy slap-bass countrified rock and roll. What the Stray Cats promised in the early ’80s, the Texas band amped-up, sped up and spat back out as quintessential rockabilly (though some would probably properly categorize the music as psychobilly, but let’s not nit-pick here). The Texas band has defined the genre for 20 years at least.
Others have taken up the torch. Few do it as well, or with as much sincerity, which the band proved during its hour-long set last night at Fulton 55. The band slid through some of its punkier numbers (“I Can’t Surf”), did the video single (“Let Me Teach You How To Eat”) and a cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” and kept the crowd at near-mosh pit levels the whole time.
Lincoln Durham opened the night with his one-man band; kick-drums played over various stringed instruments laden with a mass of reverb and distortion. He plays it straighter and with less “what-am-I-watching” wackiness than Bob Log III, let’s says. It still works. This is a revival show. It’s a rock-and-roll sermon and the dude preaches. Hard.
JD Wilkes, the singer/harmonica blower for Legendary Shack Shakers, was sold to me (by none of than the Reverend himself) as the best front man in the history of rock and roll. Not one of, but the best. So that’s the expectation I had as the Kentucky band took the stage= for the middle slot. Wilkes certainly has that thing, whatever it is, that connects rock and roll’s greatest showmen — whether its Iggy Pop or David Byrne, Jerry Lee Lewis or The Cramps’ Lux Interior. Wilkes reminded me a lot of the latter, especially is his bodily contortions and his interactions with the crowd (at one point he swiped the hat right off my head and shoved it down his blue jeans. He did give the hat back). As a band, the Shack Shakers are primal and careening; a direct and unfiltered descendant of primordial hillbilly blues.
Unknown Hinson looks like a Vampire version of Conway Twitty and plays like a hillbilly Van Halen. He somehow got Reverend Horton Heat to give up part of their set (and the encore) to be his backing band. Thankfully so.
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