The Reverend Horton Heat will return to the Domino Room on Friday, a little more than a year after its last performance at the venue. In honor of this impending psychobilly freakout, take a look back at the band’s 12th studio album, “Whole New Life,” released in November.
The band’s first album in nearly five years, “Whole New Life” is aptly named. It’s the band’s first album as a quartet with the official addition of touring keyboardist Matt Jordan (a highlight during last year’s Domino Room show). His contributions are often subtle, but integral — and when he really leans into the piano, as on the classic rockabilly title track and the New Orleans-influenced “Tchoupitoulas Street,” you wonder how this band ever got by without him.
But that’s not all that’s different. Maybe “mellow” isn’t the word, but the songs, written as always by frontman and founder Jim Heath, have a maturity not found in the band’s earliest work. Case in point: The Reverend Horton Heat of 20 years ago might have turned “Hate to See You Cry” into a punked-out rager; here, it sounds like the second coming of Buddy Holly, down to Heath’s confident croon.
Though there’s plenty of the ’50s-inspired swagger the band is known for, the best songs take the band out of its wheelhouse. “Don’t Let Go of Me,” which rides a dirge-like, reverb-soaked surf riff into a yearning chorus, is particularly noteworthy, with the four-piece proving it still has a few new tricks up its sleeve.
The Reverend Horton Heat, with Voodoo Glow Skulls, Delta Bombers, Big Sandy: 8 p.m. Friday; $25 plus fees in advance, $30 at the door; Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend; volcanictheatre.com, 541-323-1881 or 541-541-408-4329.
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin