Evaporating paychecks, relationship foibles, cheap beer and rural living: Pick up a random country album at any box store and that's likely what you're getting. Same goes for The Reverend Horton Heat's latest album, Laughin' & Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat. The difference is that The Reverend Horton Heat (stage name of frontman Jim Heath) stretches these well-worn themes to their logical extremes, highlighting the absurdities. He's like the smirking kid in the back of the church poking fun at everyone's grim-faced reverence.
All that cheerful impudence nestles cozily inside the music. A mad scientist's concoction of country, punk and rockabilly, it's best described as big instruments making big sounds. Guitar does the heavy lifting, slathering hooks left and right. Sometimes it moves at a steady swagger. Next thing you know, it spazzes out like Barney Fife on caffeine and crystal.
The Reverend Horton Heat and his band have built a reputation for energetic live shows, and that's probably where this music is best appreciated. As an album, the material will likely engage fans and leave others unenlightened. Still, on tracks like "Please Don't Take the Baby to the Liquor Store," few will be able to deny the Reverend's earthy wisdom.
The Reverend Horton Heat plays the Wilma Theatre Saturday, July 31, at 8 PM, with Split Lip Rayfield and Hillstomp. $21/$19 advance.