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Rockabilly rebel 

by Kari Tucker


Remember the last time THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT came to The Met? Remember the girl in the balcony, front row center, who could barely contain herself screaming, "WOOOO! WOOOOOO! REV! Hey, did you see that? He winked at me. YEAH, REV! WE LOVE YOU! WOOOOOOO!" while her friend hid her face in embarrassment? Well, that was me. Sorry.


But not only are the Dallas rockabilly-surf trio deserving of such a response, they live for it, too. The Reverend Horton Heat is a non-stop touring band that has played across the country thousands of times, stopping only briefly to record. Music is their life, and they are the experts. They'll be back at the Met on Tuesday.


The band's three members, guitarist Jim Heath (a.k.a. The Reverend Horton Heat), drummer Scott Churilla and bassist Jimbo Wallace produce a wicked, high-octane, psychobilly fire whose flames are visible on The Reverend's suit and on the body of Jimbo's bright red stand-up bass. Harder than Brian Setzer, yet sweeter than the Cramps, their music is fast, tight, countrified-punk-blues.


Not surprisingly -- given his fondness for American roots music -- Jim Heath is a firm classic country music lover. In fact, it seems he likes little else. His distaste for everything from Led Zeppelin to Puff Daddy made me think there might be a stubborn, grumpy old man lurking behind his musical genius. And don't even get him started on modern country music.


"People get up there and say, 'We're taking country to a new place.' Well, all you're doing is making it as pop and as corporate-sounding as you can," says The Rev. "You can tell they're more influenced by Whitney Houston than they are by Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn. All that stuff [on CMT] really gets on my nerves. And then again, a lot of the real straight country bands, they get on my nerves, too, when they really try to [adds heavy Southern drawl] talk like this, 'Well, I'll tell ya...' You can tell they're really trying to put on the whole country western accent thing. Even if they're from Texas or Alabama, I gotta tell ya... they're forcing it."


The current techno, rap and DJ-influenced styles don't impress Mr. Heath either. "I think that a DJ who scratches is just not nearly in the same league with some of my friends who have been in music schools for 10 years and then in bands for 10 years after that. We live in kind of an odd world where if you can make a rhyme, you can make $20 million in the music business. Rhyming is second grade, okay? And then the guy that has a doctorate in music and writes all this great, original music is playing piano at the Ramada Inn to feed his family.


"When people come to hear us," he continues, "basically that's it. That's all we are. We're guitar, bass and drums. And I try to play and sing and write songs the best I can, and I think that ultimately it's a little bit more artistically valid than going in and spending a year making a record with all these sound samples and stuff."


Obviously, Heath's best is paying off. Recently, Reverend Horton Heat music has made surprising cameos in movies, television (where the band appeared in person on The Drew Carey Show) and even in a car ad. Yet the scorn for commercialism is just as prevalent in Heath's perspective as it is in so many other non-mainstream bands.


"I've got this whole thing in general against corporate music," he says. "The big corporations get in there and they have control over these artists. They control what they sound like, and they control what they look like. And then they put them up there like they're this independent, free-spirited person who is dressing like they were told to dress. And if the kids only knew what a big corporate scam it is, I think that might change their attitude about music."


"People think that Limp Bizkit are there because they're the best," Heath adds knowingly. "And they're there because they're the luckiest."


Good, pure, honest live music is what stirs Jim Heath. And his outstanding ability to pick up a guitar and entertain a crowd of thousands has proven that he learned exactly what excellent live music is all about.


"If anybody needs [great live music], go check out Junior Brown," he insists. "Go check out the Paladins. They're the real thing."


As are, of course, The Reverend Horton Heat. WOOOO!





The Reverend Horton Heat performs at the Met with Nashville Pussy opening the show on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 8 pm. Tickets: $16.50. Call: 325-SEAT.





The Best of Poco


This Friday night in St. Maries, Idaho, one of popular music's most enduring country-rock bands will re-form for a single performance. POCO -- complete with founding member, singer/guitarist Richie Furay -- will perform at City Park at 9 pm.


Poco, in one form or another, has been touring off and on since the group's early '70s heyday. In fact, the band, sans Furay, is scheduled to perform on Sunday on the Clock Tower stage during Spokane's annual celebration of gastronomical excess (yes, that would be Pig Out in the Park). But it's been nearly 20 years since Furay -- once a member of the massively influential Buffalo Springfield -- has rejoined his old band mates for a live gig.


Poco formed out of the wreckage of the exploding Buffalo Springfield -- a seminal group that, along with the Gram Parsons and the Byrds, defined the country-rock archetype that would greatly influence '70s West Coast rock and inspire the current crop of alt-country bands (Whiskeytown, the Jayhawks, Wilco). Buffalo Springfield's classic lineup consisted of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Jim Messina.


With the exit of Young and Stills, Furay and Messina recruited new members and formed Poco in 1968 with steel guitarist Rusty Young, bassist Randy Meisner and drummer George Grantham. The group moved from groundbreaking country rock to less idiosyncratic, more commercial sounds, with members dropping out and being replaced almost every album or two. First Meisner, then Messina (moving to Loggins and Messina, and replaced by guitarist/vocalist Paul Cotton) and finally Furay (frustrated by Poco's lack of commercial success) left to pursue other projects. The band's brush with Top 40 greatness finally arrived in 1978 with the hit "Crazy Love" which made it to the #17 slot. Poco survived the '80s and '90s (sporting various lineups typically anchored by Cotton and Young) thanks in large part to the grassroots support of devoted fans.


Furay (currently a practicing minister in Colorado) is flying in for the St. Maries performance where he will join Young, Grantham and Cotton for a reunion that is drawing Poco fanatics from all over the country and the world.


-- Mike Corrigan





Poco, including Richie Furay, performs at City Park in St. Maries, Idaho, on Friday, Aug. 31, at 9 pm. Tickets: $15 and $20 and are available at 4,000 Holes. Call 325-1914. Poco plays Pig Out in Riverfront Park on Sunday, Sept. 2, at 8 pm.
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