It’s a Whole New Life for Reverend Horton Heat, and Jim Heath and company are celebrating it on the new album of that name, coming out Nov. 30 and premiering in its entirety exclusively below.
The title refers partly to the configuration of the Heat band, Heath tells Billboard. He and longtime bassist Jimbo Wallace have added not only a new drummer, RJ Contreras, but also a piano player, Matt Jordan, which has broadened the palette the group is operating from on the album’s 11 tracks — mostly spirited rockabilly, including a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” with a side trip to N’awlins in “Tchoupitoulas Street.”
“It’s a blast,” Heath says. “We’re really having a great time, man. Matt and RJ, either of those guys could’ve done wonderful things to the level of musicianship in this band. Getting them both at once is really cool. They’re great musicians, and me and Jimbo are having a really good time with it, like a whole new band.
“I had the song ‘Whole New Life,’ and we said, ‘Just call the album (Whole New Life),’ ’cause it really is.”
Heath adds that Jordan, in particular, has brought a hot spark to the band. “I’ve wanted a rock n’ roll piano player the whole time in Reverend Horton Heat. Matt’s young. He wants to tour. He’d play every night of the week. So that’s fun, having a couple new guys who are younger than both of us.”
Whole New Life features some other fresh ingredients for the Dallas-based Heath. One is a new focus on his singing, with a vocal coach and even nods — including in some song lyrics — to Roy Orbison. “I’ve learned a lot,” Heath says. “But then Jimbo says, ‘You’re working so hard on your singing, but all you’re doing is making a bunch of crazy noises with your voice!’ But it all seems to be working.”
The other big change, according to Heath, is a more upbeat and optimistic outlook throughout the songs.
“I wanted to be more positive, and this album is really positive — the most positive I’ve ever done,” Heath confirms. “Reverend Horton Heat could be somewhat dark in the past, but it seemed that to me, there’s just so much stuff around that’s so dark and everything, I wanted to keep it a little bit light this time and write about stuff that was important to your life — but fun and happy as opposed to anything else. Darker’s cooler, yeah, but I’m not really that cool of a guy, so this is pretty cool, and I’m having fun with it.
“I’m not the most credible source, maybe, but I really do think it’s my best one.”
Whole New Life already has Reverend Horton Heat back on the road, with U.S. dates scheduled into April. “I always try to make sure we record songs that we can play live and will sound good on stage,” Heath says. “These work as well as anything we’ve done, so it’ll be fun to play these for people.”