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Wednesday, 23 January 2008 00:00

A rowdy good time at some familiar stomping grounds

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Reverend Horton Heat: Reverend Organdrum

Maybe all that needs to be said is that somewhere around three and a half minutes into Booker T’s “Can’t Be Still” you realize the Reverend and company have slipped a little snippet of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” under the radar. These guys are nuts.

Long the purveyor of all things twang, Jim “Rev. Horton Heat” Heath was bitten with the organ trio bug recently, gathered some friends together (organist Tim Alexander and drummer Todd Soesbe) and out came Reverend Organdrum. Composed of 18 well chosen — surprise surprise — rockabilly, blues, jazz, country and TV theme classics, this latest project finds Heat putting the music first throughout, with only two vocal tracks on the frantically swinging and whimsical “Bim Bam Baby” and still swinging but not so frantic “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.” Everywhere else he and Alexander fill every measure with virtuosic vintage goodness. Heath wastes no time getting down to serious business by the second track, Vide Lee Walker’s “Strollin’ With Bones.”

While there’s never been any doubt that he’s a helluva guitarist, in this format you get to really hear him dig into his bag of tricks, making that old Gretsch hollow-body shriek one minute and moan the next. The band’s readings of “Honky Tonk,” the classic James Bond theme, or Ellington’s “C Jam Blues,” reflect players that know this music inside and out, live and breathe it. Things get downright lounge-ified on “Groovin’,” so much so that I almost lamented my lack of a nice fez and smoking jacket. Martini time? You bet. Reverend Organdrum is easy to like; light-hearted, varied and impeccably performed. If these guys tour, it’ll surely be a “must see” event.

Eric Lindell: Low On Cash, Rich In Love

It’s getting harder to justify whining about the lack of authentic “soul” music lately, because the last couple of years have seen several new artists pop up that excel at the style. Eric Lindell is one of them. Though signed to blues approved label Alligator Records, it would be tough to classify Low On Cash, Rich In Love as a “blues” album in any strict sense — Lindell confidently seasons this set of songs with gritty funk, R&B and undeniably New Orleans flavors. Add to this some inspired songwriting, singing and playing and you’ve got the makings of a mighty fine album.

Don’t let the mellow baby-making vibe of the opening track fool you; good as it is, “Lay Back Down” is just one of many colors to be found on Low On Cash, Rich In Love. The bubbling wah-wah guitars and potentially injurious funk of “Low On Cash” will snap your head back, and the pleading “Tried And True” oozes Louisiana soul. Lindell not only sings and plays with righteous groove and pocket, but his production is stellar as well- organic and just dirty enough to feel right. These are performances where perfection takes a backseat to vibe. Even if he hits a few flat notes on “Josephine” it’s perfectly all right, because there’s a big difference between a great singer drifting a little but delivering something authentic in a take and a less capable vocalist needing to be digitally corrected into oblivion.

Lindell gets his Buddy Guy thing going on the slinky “It’s My Pleasure,” laying spiky guitar licks all through the tune. “It’s A Pity” is another potent slice of funk, but not without content; with an opening line like “From Texas, Mississippi, Alabama all the way down to New Orleans/Hard times, hard times that you can’t believe...” it’s pretty easy to tell where he’s coming from — literally.

Maybe Low On Cash, Rich In Love doesn’t break any new ground, but considering it’s airtight grooves, stellar production and deep well of soul, that’s beside the point. Eric Lindell has mined the best of the music that’s made him who he is — be it Little Feat, War, Curtis Mayfield or the Meters — and come out with a diamond all his own.

(Chris Cooper can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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