…en Hillbilly Caliente

Yep Roc

Bring on the aging surf guitarists.

Comparing the subtleties of the various brands of reverb-heavy instrumental guitar-based rock is a lot like choosing a fine wine. For the uninitiated everything has the same flavour, but for the sophisticated palette there is a wild array of nuance.

Take …en Hillbilly Caliente by Atomic 7. Featuring Brian Connelly of Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet (that band that did the theme for Kids In The Hall), his musical style has always been a smooth mix of Duane Eddy and Les Paul. In the days of Shadowy Men, the focus was fairly tight, so when Atomic 7 released their instro-guitar extravaganza debut … Gowns By Edith Head, it was a bit of a surprise. Barn-dance two-steps and spaghetti-western showdowns jostled happily side by side and the album was a no-holds-barred retro six-string primer. With …en Hillbilly Caliente, Connelly has regained a bit of his focus with an album that splits the difference between the last Shadowy Men outing and the first Atomic 7 release. Stripped-down drums and stand-up bass lend themselves quite well to Connelly's cowpoke exploits and you really can't touch him when he sits down to the lap-steel guitar. A smiling, upbeat shaker of an album, Connelly's trademark fret work (and insane song titles) are as good as ever - aging like that fine wine I mentioned earlier.

While Reverend Horton Heat is not exclusively instrumental, much of the same criteria applies - whammy-bar guitar, walking bass and a whole lot of snare work. A 20-year punkabilly veteran, the Reverend (a.k.a. Jim Heath) has been delivering the same brand of riff-heavy country-surf for as long as I can remember and it's fitting that this album is called Revival - there's really nothing new here. The Rev's bad-boy liquor-soaked persona is intact and his rough-edged vocals are as beautifully raw as ever. He has the benefit of leaning more toward the roots than rock end of the musical spectrum and this allows him to age gracefully rather than becoming a parody of himself (compare Johnny Cash to David Lee Roth - need I say more). Revival showcases a ridiculously tight band delivering scorching riffs, clockwork timing and boundless energy. The only problem is if you have one Reverend Horton Heat album you pretty much have 'em all. The upside is that this album is perfect for fans and newcomers alike. Just be prepared - while Atomic 7 is a fine Beaujolais, the Reverend is Baby Duck. They'll both get you drunk. It's just a question of finesse.

ATOMIC 7 - 4/5