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Reverend Organdrum: Hellfire Hammond

Reverend Organdrum

“Moving those things is the hard part,” laughs guitarist Jim Heath, better known as the Reverend Horton Heat. He’s referring to his latest love, the Hammond B3 organ, and he follows a long line of roots guitarists including Jimmie Vaughan and the late Danny Gatton who’ve fallen head over heels for the hulking bastion of boogaloo. “[The Hammond’s] got soul. It’s got soul. It’s just got soul,” he repeats. “It can sound like you’re in church one minute and you’re in the lowest dive bar ever the next.”

Heath, whose day job is to raise hell with a long-running psychobilly threesome billed under his stage name, recently released a different kind of trio record with a guitar-organ-drums band dubbed Reverend Organdrum.

Hi-Fi Stereo (Yep Roc) is sometimes swinging and shuffling and other times rocking or grooving, with legit B3 burners like Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “The Black and Crazy Blues” mixed around Heath’s penchant for clever Americana kitsch (he loves Tommy Tedesco, Henry Mancini and surf guitar), electric blues and classic instrumental soul (Booker T. and the MGs’ “Green Onions” was his first liaison with the organ). In other words, Reverend Organdrum better resembles a goodtime Texas bar band than a trio of natty-suited revivalists. (Who else would quote Black Sabbath in the midst of Booker T.?) The eclectic party-mix of a set makes more sense after hearing how this Dallas-based band came together.

While Heath was hanging with friend and Asleep at the Wheel keysman Tim Alexander, the pair began discussing a chops-building comedown project to follow Heath’s most recent Reverend Horton Heat album. Alexander suggested the trusty pub-jazz format and Heath jumped at this “awesome idea.” After that, what Heath names “divine intervention” took hold.

“I said, ‘Who do we get to play drums?’ And [Tim] said, ‘You know, instead of trying to get some guy who’s a local hotshot, we ought to just get somebody in the neighborhood who will be easy to get to rehearse.’ So when he said ‘neighbor,’ I immediately said, ‘My next-door neighbor.'” Heath’s next-door neighbor just happened to be Todd Soesbe, a versatile working drummer and “Hammond enthusiast.”

While he’s not out to give Pat Martino a run for his money-“I might be a little closer to blues and country than I am to jazz,” he says-Heath cooks with the ease of an arch-topper on Ellington vehicles like “C Jam Blues” and “Night Train” and has done enough homework to know his Jimmy Smiths from his Jack McDuffs. He’s also learned how “a lot of the jazz organists were a little bit snubbed out.”

One can imagine Blue Note-generation critics writing this nimble little combo off, not that the Rev cares. “I avoid reading anything about Reverend Horton Heat,” he chuckles. “If I read something that’s great, then I have to believe when they write [that] this guy really sucks.”

Originally Published