After straying farther and farther from the vintage sounds unveiled in his classic decade-old debut, Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em, The Reverend Horton Heat has jumped back into the past. Spend a Night In the Box trades in the alt-rock feel of Space Heater and the heavy grind of Liquor In the Front for a return to stripped-down swingin’ rockabilly with no-perks production that yields a clear, authentic sound. Granted, this album is less flashy than its immediate predecessors, but it makes up for the lack of glitz with its endearing charm.

Each album from the Reverend is guaranteed to include an all-out speedracer and a low-key country tune, and this latest effort is no exception. “Sue Jack Daniels” might sound quite similar to “Jimbo Song,” but this amusing romp still ranks among the record’s highlights, while “The Bedroom Again” might be his best venture into country since “Bales of Cocaine.” Spend a Night In the Box, from its bouncy title track to the bluesy shuffle, “Whole Lotta Baby,” relies heavily on jazzy call-and-response choruses and song-ending segments during which the Reverend (Jim Heath) repeats the song titles ad infinitum.

Heath unleashes a few fierce solos, particularly on the spring-reverb powered “Girl In Blue” and the rollicking instrumental “The Millionaire,” but his albums are no longer guitar-playing clinics. Now the focus is on the whole band, and such well-structured tunes as the midpaced gems “It Hurts Your Daddy Bad” and “Unlucky in Love” give bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla plenty of opportunities to show off their chops. The Reverend Horton Heat has gone back to the basics, and the resulting album, his finest in years, is full of songs that should add plenty of fuel to what’s already one of the hottest live shows in existence.

Categories: Music