With their hot-rodded fusion of dazzling high-speed guitar runs, thundering rhythms, high-profile swagger, and lyrical smirk, the Reverend Horton Heat are perhaps the most popular psychobilly artists of all time, their recognition rivaled only by the esteem generated by the genre’s founders, . The Reverend (as both the band and its guitar-playing frontman are known) built a strong cult following during the ’90s through constant touring, manic showmanship, and a barbed sense of humor. The latter was nothing new in the world of psychobilly, of course, and Heat’s music certainly maintained the trashy aesthetic of his spiritual forebears. The Reverend’s true innovation was updating the psychobilly sound for the alternative rock era. In their hands, it had roaring distorted guitars, rocked as hard as any punk band, and didn’t look exclusively to the pop culture of the past for its style or subject matter. Most of the Reverend’s lyrics were gonzo celebrations of sex, drugs, booze, and cars, and true to his name, his early concerts often featured mock sermons in the style of a rural revivalist preacher. On their 1992 debut Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em, the group established the template of their no-frills, high-intensity approach to rockabilly, and though celebrity producers helped beef up the sound of their next two albums — of on 1993’s The Full Custom Gospel Sounds and ‘s on 1994’s Liquor in the Front — the Reverend’s essential style changed little with time. They would explore a more introspective side on 2004’s Revival, embrace their country influences on 2009’s Laughin’ & Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat, and add a pianist to the mix on 2018’s Whole New Life, but on-stage and in the studio, Jim Heath and his bandmates could always be depended upon to deliver some of the twangy fire that their fans loved.
A staunch adherent of old-style honky tonk and Bakersfield country, Dale Watson has positioned himself as a tattooed, stubbornly independent outsider only interested in recording authentic country music. His 1995 debut, Cheatin’ Heart Attack, wowed writers and fans with its potent songwriting and authentic honky tonk vibe, 1998’s The Truckin’ Sessions was the first of a series of LPs devoted to his love of big rigs, 2007’s The Little Darlin’ Sessions saw Watson recording alongside some of the legendary session musicians who inspired him, and 2019’s Call Me Lucky found him creatively revitalized after relocating to Memphis, Tennessee. Watson continued to thrive in Memphis, delivering the instrumental record Dale Watson Presents: The Memphians in 2021, the covers album Jukebox Fury in 2022, and the acoustic country-blues set Starvation Box in 2023.
Jason D. Williams has spent a lifetime behind the piano connecting with country and rock ‘n’ roll greats while creating a persona that’s 100 percent original. After decades of being celebrated for his take-no-prisoners approach to performing country and rock ‘n’ roll penned by others, Williams has added a new element to his artistry, songwriting.
The rock ‘n’ roll history of Memphis looms large in Williams’ world. He recorded for RCA and Sun Records in the 1980s and ’90s, and returned to the recording fold in 2010 and has continued steady since. At the age of 16, Williams left his tiny hometown of El Dorado, Ark., to perform with LaBeef who had set up a base of operations in northeast Massachusetts. Williams, who continued to work with LaBeef on occasion until his death in 2021, went solo in the late 1980s and found a steady home at Mallards in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN when a snowstorm stranded him a few steps from the Peabody door, quickly he attracted a following and the rest, as they say, is history.