Hi-Fi Stereo

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In the liner notes to this album, Jim Heath (better known as Reverend Horton Heat) says that he began jamming with Hammond organ man Tim Alexander and drummer Todd Soesbe because he was "looking for some new ways to improve my guitar playing." Anyone who has heard Heath tear up fretboards as the world's leading psychobilly guitarist might wonder just how much improvement the man really needed, but there's no arguing that Hi-Fi Stereo, credited to his new side combo Rev. Organdrum, gives Heath a chance to stretch out in some new and interesting directions. With Hi-Fi Stereo, Heath puts his hot-wired roots rock on the back burner in favor of some cooler retro sounds in a set that runs the gamut from vintage movie themes ("A Shot in the Dark," "Hang 'Em High," "James Bond Theme") and classic blues workouts ("Night Train," "I Got a Woman") to swinging jazz (Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues," Roland Kirk's "Black and Crazy Blues"), and '60s soul ("Groovin'," "Time Is Tight"). Heath's guitar work is considerably more muted than usual in this context, but he still shows off plenty of very impressive picking as he digs deep into some moody and melodic tunes, and with Alexander on keys he's not the sole star of the show for a change, and the interplay between the two manages to sound playful and intuitive while they push one another in the right directions. Drummer Soesbe doesn't get as much time in the spotlight, but his accompaniment is solid and he pushes the music forward with grace and strength. The best Reverend Horton Heat records are generally the most frantic, and Rev. Organdrum represents a big step in the opposite direction, but Hi-Fi Stereo shows Jim Heath can dial down the volume and still come up with fun, compelling music, and with any luck, this happening trio will head back to the studio some time soon.

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