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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Amid the rowdiness, some tunes

The South rocks the Southland as Reverend Horton Heat and a Blaine Cartwright band get mighty raucous.

December 29, 2007|Greg Burk | Special to The Times

Urpin' cowboys blew the rent to sustain a worthy buzz. Two drunks barreled through the lobby holding each other semi-vertical. Ambulances screamed up when the curtain came down. It was all for the enduring glory of veteran road warriors the Reverend Horton Heat and Nashville Pussy, and it wasn't even New Year's Eve.

Co-billed Hank Williams III was out sick, but a surprise fill-in plus steady fill-ups kept the party pumped at the Wiltern on Thursday.

Swigging a communal quart of Jack, the two men and two women of Nashville P set a high level with their hellbent Southern rock. "It's just like Jesus said," yelled ball-capped, biker-'stached and beer-gutted frontman Blaine Cartwright on the opening "Say Something Nasty." "Roll me a joint and pass that thorny crown!"

Although Cartwright's diminutive wife, Ruyter Suys, may be no Billy Gibbons chopswise, she rocked her red Gibson SG even more viciously than the ZZ Top fretsman and whipped up energy with perpetual agitation of her yard-long blond mane. Bassist Karen Cuda stood tough while Jeremy Thompson, the laziest drummer in showbiz, whapped out an effortlessly destructive beat.

Gorgeously appointed in Art Deco, the Wiltern nevertheless felt like a roadhouse when Nashville P stomped through the blues shuffle of "Good Night for a Heart Attack," the crude bash of "Hate & Whiskey" and the jump boogie of "You're Gonna Get It." After a set of well under an hour, the four left the mob wanting more.

Horton Heat maintained the properly sloppy vibe. A deadpan psycho in a red blazer, the Reverend (Jim Heath) jangled out every rockabilly guitar riff under the sun in dubious sync with hulker Jimbo Wallace's spanking upright bass and Paul Simmons' rattletrap drums and clickety sticks.

After the prairie-oyster surf instrumental "Big Sky," thematic exhortations such as "It's Martini Time" and "Marijuana" emphasized Heat's shtick-in-trade. Lacking the cartoon charisma of the Cramps, the instrumental acumen of the Knitters or the poetic gloom of the late-and-lamented Gun Club, the band needed a hook to stand out among latter-day Americana-billies, and humor was the ticket.

Heath made up for his plain pipes with casual pickin' flair. His Chuck Berry-style solo on "Wiggle Stick" was fierce, and anybody who could diddle a decent lead while perched on a bass fiddle laid sideways on the floor (while Wallace was still plucking!) deserved some genuflection.

The consolation prize for Hank III's absence arrived mid-set with the introduction of Motorhead's mummified-looking yet magnetic Lemmy Kilmister. Through several tunes, the English rocker's driving electric bass pushed the group to a tightness it never attempted without him, and his road-hardened croak on "Route 66" and the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" made for surreal syncretism.

A hard night. There were gonna be hundreds calling in sick Friday.

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