Jim Heath, Jimbo Wallace, and a succession of drummers have been touring under the banner of the Reverend Horton Heat since the late '80s, and after close to three decades as the wildest and loudest rockabilly band in creation, change has come to the group. 2018's Whole New Life is the Reverend Horton Heat's first album as a quartet, with Matt Jordan installed as the group's first full-time keyboard player. Jordan's rollicking piano and atmospheric organ work finally gives Heath's guitar work some competition for the melodic spotlight, and while Heath is still the leader of the band, the Professor Longhair lifts on "Tchoupitoulas Street" and the Jerry Lee-influenced boogie on the title cut certainly give the music a different personality than when this group was all about the guitars. Though there's no arguing that this band still rocks solidly and is out for a good time, the songs on Whole New Life suggests the hard-partying life doesn't hold as much appeal for these guys as it once did. The title cut celebrates the joys of hearth, home, and happy marriage, "Don't Let Go of Me" is full of regret as a man struggles to hold on to his love, "Got It in My Pocket" is about proposing to your significant other, and "Sunrise Through the Power Lines" is a sincere message of trying to find the good things in life. Whole New Life falls well short of wistful, but it sure isn't the gin-soaked thrill ride of Reverend Horton Heat's heyday in the '90s. That said, this may be a relatively subdued effort from the Right Reverend, but Heath's guitar work still dazzles consistently, Wallace and new drummer Arjuna "RJ" Contreras are a powerful and well-focused rhythm section, and Jordan's keyboards are on point throughout. The Reverend Horton Heat is older, wiser, and a little more cautious on Whole New Life, but they're still a powerhouse act that delivers as well as anyone in the psychobilly underground, and loyal fans are sure to enjoy this.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming