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.
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