I am breaking some rules here. Not any real written sanctified rules, merely ones that are both my own and generally accepted by most of the public at large. What have I done? I have listened to holiday music before Thanksgiving. Besides my own personal rules, I have disobeyed the rules of my household, and if I had played the CD at work, I would have disobeyed those as well. Why have I done it? For one, I am somewhat bound by release dates. As this CD was released in October, I have reviewed it in October. For another, every year that passes, I seem to enjoy holiday music just a little bit more. Whereas once it was dreaded, it now carries with it the joy of the season that was originally meant. Finally, I did it because it was the Reverend Horton Heat.
It goes without saying that I didn’t know what to expect out of a holiday album from the man who brought us songs about interracial homosexual cowboy love, eating steak and dwarf rodeos. But the furthest thing from my mind was a, by Jim Heath’s standards, straightforward rockabilly fun fest. We Three Kings is full of holiday classics including the aptly used title track. It is the trio’s rendition of this song as well as eleven others and one original song that so surprised me. Heath’s voice is sans the usual sandpaper / gravel growl, and more akin to crooners of old. I never realized just how good of a singer the Reverend really is.
Don’t panic Heat fans! The good Reverend still has his guitar mojo working overtime as he surf riffs his way through some of the more rocking tunes of the holiday repertoire. Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” and Willie Nelson’s / Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Paper” combine with some of the more traditional carols and songs, brining it that rockabilly touch. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” becomes a mashup with the Batman television theme complete with Heath’s dialogue between the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder. Heath’s new tune is called “Santa on the Roof,” and much like the rest of the album, is devoid of the usual controversy surrounding at least a few of the songs on every release.
Every year, both at home and at work in a retail environment, there is always a, forgive the pun, heated discussion about the choice of holiday music. At home we mostly prefer the likes of Sinatra, Dino, Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. At work, those can be standard as well, most people rightly eschewing the likes of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (which gets more obnoxious every year), Mariah Carey and Kenny G. It becomes infinitely easier to learn to hate specific holiday albums as they play ad infinitum over store speakers, no matter what the original opinion of the piece may have been. The Reverend’s dazzling guitar skills along with his newfound love of the Hammond Organ (as well as other keys) and the works of such composers as the great Henry Mancini, are what make this album a keeper, combining the old guard with the (fairly) new psychobilly style, making We Three Kings a holiday album I’d feel comfortable to play in any environment.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra- Boogie Woogie Christmas
Dean Martin- Making Spirits Bright
The Reverend Horton Heat- Revival