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Bill Kirchen
Word To The Wise
Proper Records
www.billkirchen.com


There are no other guitar players like Bill Kirchen. Period. The man knows his way around a fretboard like no one's business and can get the twang from a Telecaster in a way that most only dream about. But Kirchen is definitely not a one trick pony; he has penned some of the finest songs of the past few decades, whether they are earnest songs about life and love or tongue-in-cheek country ditties full of humor and word play. Kirchen first came to prominence as guitarist in the great Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen, playing the wicked guitar - and writing - the classic "Hot Rod Lincoln". Over the years, a dude like Bill makes a lot of friends, and on his latest release he gets a few of them to stop in and help out on a song here or there.

The record kicks off in high Kirchen style with the swinging and jumping "Bump Wood". This song preaches the gospel of you can't take it with you so you'd better live for today and enjoy it all, and is filled with some incredible guitar playing, as well as lyrics like the refrain, "When I wake up in the morning I know it's gonna be good when I stick out my elbows and I don't bump wood." Kirchen's old pal Nick Lowe stops by to lend a hand, along with the inestimable Paul Carrack, on the 1950's style slow-rocker "Shelly's Winter Love". This track nails the vibe and slow pull of those sad ballads from the classic rock'n'roll era, and Carrack sounds amazing. Kirchen reinvents his great song "Man In The Bottom Of The Well", casting it as more of a slow-rock dirge, which nicely offsets the vocals of the iconic Elvis Costello who joins in this time around and might possibly lend some help on guitar, as well.

Commander Cody swings by to sting the ivories on "I Don't Work That Cheap", a fun and hilarious epithet about the value of one's own contributions as the author runs through history. "Time Will Tell The Story" is a moody track with a heavy message and is a virtual lesson in playing guitar with tremolo. The album continues with some heavier-subject tracks, including a cover of Roger Miller's beautiful "Husbands And Wives" and the classic-sounding "Arkansas Diamond" that almost sounds as if it could have been lifted off of an old Buck Owens' record. Maria Muldaur lends her wonderful voice to the jazzy "Ain't Got Time For The Blues" and Dan Hicks lends some great guitar and vocals to the jumping jazz track "Word To The Wise". The album ends with another great Kirchen track that lives up to his legacy, filled with swinging and twanging guitars, brilliant lyrics, and the excellent harmonica playing of Norton Buffalo.

Word To The Wise is another fantastic Kirchen record… and hopefully, with all these folks who've joined him on songs some of their fans will be brought into the know on just how great Bill Kirchen is. Inside the liner notes are stories about how Kirchen came to know the folks who helped with the record or how they came to play on certain songs. Not only is the music a peek into the soul of a great musician, but the written words show how much esteem some of the industry's greatest performers feel about their pal Bill. If you aren't hip to his great rock, shouldn't you be? Nick Lowe seems to think you should be.

-David DeVoe

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