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The Rev. returns 

Billy C. Wirtz, who never fails to make satire boogie

The irreverent Reverend Billy C. Wirtz returns to the ArtsCenter in Carrboro this week, and it ain't soon enough. We need healin' and he's the man with the music and the laughs.

What does Rev. Billy do to prepare for the show? To get his creative juices flowing, he's busy Christmas week filling out a personal ad for the edgier-than-you'd-expect-with-a-name-like-that Bust magazine (www.bust.com).

"You know where you describe yourself ... I put SENSITIVE, CARING, HEAVILY TATTOOED AGNOSTIC SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN. Ya think that pretty well describes it?"

Yes, there is a God! And He, or someone working for Him or Her, told Billy to hit the road in 1982 as director of The First House of Polyester Worship and Horizontal Throbbing Teenage Desire. That was nine albums and a millennia of miles ago. If you're new to Rev. Billy, he's just one of the most interesting and entertaining artists you'll ever meet. If you love American music, you'll inevitably be drawn to some part of his work. Having recently signed on with artist-friendly blues label Blind Pig, he's got a jolt of new energy in store for the congregation.

"Hightone Records ... had me niched as a comedy and novelty artist--sort of the Rudy Ray Moore of Americana music ... or ... the Justin Wilson for the NPR set. I've taken rockabilly, traditional Chicago (blues) and New Orleans and gospel and a Red Sovine-type format and plugged my own style into 'em. I'm really looking forward to the new relationship with Blind Pig."

Billy quickly got to the point about a "serious" record that set aside comedy a bit.

"I can't tell you how many fans over the years--every gig, someone comes up and asks, "When are you going to put out a straight ahead, an album you'd entitle BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS type of release."

"I'd include a good boogie-woogie by Camille Howard, like 'X-Temporaneous Boogie' ... a great number."

His afternoon coffee kicking in, Billy skewers Southern culture, pop culture and political culture.

"I'm writing 'The Red State Rock.' My point of view keeps changing. I think the people on the extreme left are as out of touch as the people on the extreme right."

Serious or not, he's staying true to his past, though.

"I'm always going to play 'Roberta' and I'm always going to play 'Mennonite Surf Party' and I'm always going to have the best looking shoes."

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz plays the ArtsCenter Saturday, Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

More by Tony Madejczyk

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