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Music Review: Reverend Horton Heat – 25 to Life [2CD+1DVD Box Set]

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Reverend Horton Heat sings a lot of songs about cars, drugs, alcohol, and sex. If you are offended by any of these subjects, then this is not the band for you. Otherwise, the Reverend and his cohorts create some of the best rockabilly/psychobilly music around, often with heaping helpings of humor and always with great musicianship.

For 25 years, the band has been one of the hardest-touring bands in the country, and 25 to Life provides a wonderful celebration of their career. The package includes one of the best concert documentaries I have ever seen, filmed at the legendary Fillmore Theater in San Francisco in 2010. The concert footage is interspersed with interviews with the band and crew, plus historic footage. Reverend Horton Heat is at its best in live performance, and this documentary is the next best way to experience them.

In addition, the package also includes the first career-spanning collection of Reverend Horton Heat recordings, with 23 songs from all 23 years, and a live CD of the Fillmore concert for those times when you cannot watch the video.

Which songs you enjoy the most will probably depend on whether you prefer the rockabilly songs more or the psychobilly songs more, or the serious songs over the humorous ones. I prefer the humorous rockabilly songs; my daughter loves the psychobilly ones. Of course, there’s also the hilarious “I Can’t Surf,” which makes fun of the psychobilly surf genre and is one of my favorite songs in the package.

Other favorites include “Please Don’t Take the Baby to the Liquor Store,” “Cowboy Love” (which covers as many ways to offend the narrow-minded listener as possible), and “Bales of Cocaine,” a modern day morality tale with a twist, which for some reason is not included on either disc but is in the movie. It’s definitely not an anti-drug song. I also love “Where in the Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush?” and “Galaxy 500.”

Not every song here is funny. “Indigo Friends” is an anti-drug song, mourning the loss of friends to heroin. “Loaded Gun,” “Party in Your Head,” and “One Time for Me” are pure psychobilly. Then there are songs like “Pride of San Jacinto” and “Big Sky” that fit more in the purely western vein.

These are just a sample of the songs on the two discs and in the movie (there are more than 30 of them). If you are not easily offended and you like psychobilly or rockabilly music, you are going to absolutely love 25 to Life.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.