Over the decades, Bill Kirchen has certainly racked up plenty of hours on the road, first as the hotshot lead guitarist for Commander Cody's hard-edged hippiebilly bar band, the Lost Planet Airmen, and then as the tireless roadhouse troubadour who's crisscrossed the country time and time again, with a huge repertoire and talent to burn... His live shows are the stuff of legend, mixing country, blues and soul with a trucker tune or two, and usually capping things off with a manic version of "Hod Rod Lincoln," with Kirchen doing deadly impersonations of any guitar player you can imagine. His records are lots of fun, too... Let's take a look...
Bill Kirchen "King Of Dieselbilly" (HighTone, 2005)
A fast-paced, too-much-fun collection of some of Kirchen's best work for the HighTone label, recorded between 1997-2002. Includes several tracks by the all-star electric/steel guitar cabal known as the "Twangbangers," and not one, but two nine-minute long versions of Kirchen's signature piece, the constantly updated "Hot Rod Lincoln," in which he pays homage to countless iconic rock guitar riffs, from Hendrix to Duane Eddy, performed at a jovial, breakneck pace. There are also some great novelty tunes, such as "Womb To The Tomb" and "Truck Stop At The End Of The World," delivered in the gruff, gritty Kirchen style that fans have come to know and love. You'd to well to track down his individual albums as well, but this best-of set won't steer you wrong.
The Moonlighters "The Moonlighters" (Amherst, 1977)
A Kirchen "solo" project, begun at the tail-end of his tenure with Commander Cody...
The Moonlighters "Rush Hour" (Demon, 1983)
(Produced by Nick Lowe)
A punchy, relentlessly upbeat album with tightly arranged rock-soul grooves, very much in the same vein as Rockpile and Nick Lowe's albums... Kirchen really cuts loose on some gritty guitar riffs on the opening tracks -- the second half of the album gets funkier, with dips into soul and reggae riddims... But there are several songs about cruising and cars as well... It wouldn't be Kirchen-adelic otherwise!
The Moonlighters "The Missing Moonlighters: Live/Studio Closet Tapes" (Globe Records, 2008)
Bill Kirchen "Tombstone Every Mile" (Black Top, 1994)
Bill Kirchen "Have Love, Will Travel" (Black Top, 1996)
Bill Kirchen "Hot Rod Lincoln - Live!" (Hightone, 1997)
Bill Kirchen "Raise A Ruckus" (Hightone, 1999)
Bill Kirchen "Tied To The Wheel" (HighTone, 2001)
Another great record! When he sings of the lure of the highway on songs like "Roll Truck Roll," and "Hillbilly Truck Drivin' Man," you can tell Kirchen knows what he's talking about. His band is also one of the tightest, most versatile outfits in the alt.country scene today, and this is one of their best albums in years. The trucking theme continues on the title track and on the humorously post-apocalyptic "Truck Stop At The End Of The World"... My favorite track may be his perky cover of Merle Haggard's "Prison Band," where a jailbreak is thwarted by a talent show audition. With three decades worth of touring and recording under his belt, Kirchen shows no sign of slowing down or losing his sense of adventure, which is good news for country fans in every town on the Interstate. Check this one out!
Twangbangers "26 Days On The Road" (HighTone, 2002)
A summit meeting of several grungy, gritty superpickers - Kirchen and his band, along with Redd Volkaert and steel guitarist Joe Goldmark, and singer Dallas Wayne on a fun mix of instrumentals and twangy oldies. "Hot Rod Lincoln?" You betcha! A bunch of other country and bar-band classics as well... Real, ragged, rootsy music, with a slightly intense edge to many of the songs.
Bill Kirchen "Hammer Of The Honky-Tonk Gods" (Proper, 2006)
Bill Kirchen/Various Artists "Word To The Wise" (Proper, 2010)
Roadhouse road warrior Bill Kirchen comes in from the cold just long enough to record a fab all-star duets album with some of his most illustrious pals. Included in the fun are artists such as Norton Buffalo, Elvis Costello, Dan Hicks, Nick Lowe, Maria Muldaur, and Kirchen's old 1970's bandmate, Commander Cody. There are a lot of great performances, though one notable winner is Maria Muldaur's turn on "Ain't Got Time For The Blues" -- she really sounds great these days! And Kirchen ain't no slouch either... He's a genial host, sometimes chatting with the others as he twangs, bangs and purrs his way through each song. Another great record from one of the finest Americana artists alive.
Bill Kirchen "Seeds & Stems" (Proper, 2013)
Hick Music Index