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New music a rare thing for Horton Heat fans

The Reverend Horton Heat hit the Knitting Factory on Wednesday night. (Courtesy photo)
The Reverend Horton Heat hit the Knitting Factory on Wednesday night. (Courtesy photo)
Alan Sculley

Fans of the Reverend Horton Heat haven’t exactly been flooded with new music from the band lately.

After cranking out eight studio albums over the first 13 years of a recording career that began with the 1990 release “Smoke ’em If You Got ’em,” the group’s current CD, “Rev,” marks only the second studio release from the Dallas-based group since 2004’s “Revival.”

But frontman Jim “The Reverend” Heath figures people haven’t been bothered by the reduced musical output.

“When we were coming out with albums every two years, it really kind of pissed off our fans,” Heath said in a recent phone interview.

“It was just too much, too much coming at them. And it always worked out that about every time we released a new album that was right at the exact same time they were finally starting to get and request the songs from the previous album.

“After ‘Revival,’ it was like, we better slow down on this,” he said.

“And there were some other life issues that happened all in that time and it just kind of made sense to hold off on new albums for a while.”

In a sense, though, it’s been even longer since fans have gotten a fresh batch of prototypical Reverend Horton Heat songs.

The group’s previous album, 2009’s “Laughin’ & Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat,” was a departure from the group’s signature high-octane roots rock sound, as it spotlighted the group’s country influence.

“Going back to the ‘Laughin’ and Cryin’,’ I really wanted to make a straight country album,” Heath said. “Every album that we’ve ever had has had a country song on it, and this one (“Rev”) kind of does, too …. But it (‘Laughin’ and Cryin’ ’) was fun to do. It didn’t turn out to be a straight country album necessarily, but it leans very much country.”

Heath, though, admits that “Laughin’ and Cryin’ ” didn’t register with some of the group’s fans, and having scratched the country itch, it became apparent that a return to the familiar rocking sound would be the next move for the group, which also includes bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla.

“It (‘Laughin’ and Cryin’ ’) almost just kind of didn’t do as much good, and it kind of seemed like we haven’t had an album that had some good fast rock tunes since ‘Revival,’ ” Heath said. “So it just made sense that we would get to some more harder edged, fast tempo, rocking stuff.”

And that’s just what “Rev” delivers. As is usually the case with Reverend Horton Heat albums, rockabilly rooted songs figure prominently in the mix – with “Smell of Gasoline,” “Spooky Boots” and “Scenery Going By” all fueled by the full-throttle swing generated by Churilla. A healthy dose of surf rock gets mixed with a cheesy horror motif on the largely instrumental tune “Zombie Dumb.” On “Never Gonna Stop It” and “Let Me Teach You How To Eat,” the band puts more of a punk accent on its otherwise early rock-influenced sound. The country influence, meanwhile, pops up on “Hardscrabble Woman” and “Longest Gonest Man,” although the latter tune in particular is as frisky as about any song on the CD.

The group is back on the road, playing shows in support of “Rev” (the group’s first release under a new deal with Victory Records). But that doesn’t mean fans will be inundated with new tunes during the Reverend Horton Heat’s live set.

“We’ll be playing new songs off of the new album,” Heath said. “But gosh, it gets harder and harder. The more albums you come out with, the harder it is to get the new stuff in. People pay their ticket price for the live show to hear a lot of our standard stuff. But we’re definitely going to try (to include new songs). We’ve got three or four of them that work really well live.”

What fans won’t hear during the live show is much in the way of ballads – no surprise for a group that is known to play one of the most energetic shows of any rock band. Still, Heath said, the group has calmed down a bit in a few ways over nearly 25 years of touring.

“We still play a lot of fast, high energy songs,” he said. “Our slow songs don’t usually make the set. We’re usually going, pile driving from one fast song into another to keep the crowd energetic and going.

“That’s kind of what we do. That being said, it has changed. In the early years, around the time when Jimbo first joined the band (in 1989), we would always do a bunch of crazy stuff. I mean, we were climbing up on scaffolding, on top of speaker boxes, jumping off into the crowd. We were walking on the bar and jumping off it, always jumping and falling and hurting ourselves. We don’t do that kind of zaniness anymore, but we still have our general zaniness.”

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