Written by James Killen
Jul 13, 2013 at 12:01 AM
ImageLost Planet Airman, Bill Kirchen, found enough time to slide into the studio in London while on his European tour last year, to record a new release of some Kirchen country, rockabilly and generally hard trucking tunes. If you were looking for a whole record of new Kirchen tunes, you might be disappointed. What you can get is some of the most professionally produced Airman tunes recorded to date. The performance with Bill’s touring band of Jack O’Dell on drums and Maurice Cridlen on bass seemed to flow naturally. The addition of Austin de Lone on the keyboards really topped this disc off in true Commander Cody style.

The recording kicks off with a new version of “Too Much Fun” that makes Bill Kirchen sound like Ray Wylie Hubbard’s daddy. Then we switch to a traditional country lament with “Tell Me the Reason”, Bill playing his guitar like a pedal steel. The first two songs lead perfectly into the title track, “Down to Seeds and Stems Again”, a Marty Robbins style lament that seems to be becoming more timely as Washington and Colorado re-think their marijuana policies.

“Semi-Truck” with its rockabilly bouncing bass reaches back to the days before cross country trucking regulation really took effect. “Rockabilly Funeral” features a swamp boogie beat that would put Jerry Reed to shame. Bill Kirchen gets his revelation on the road to Damascus on “Womb to the Tomb”, complete with Telecaster flourish. “Flip Flop” finds Kirchen using trucker lingo to pay tribute to some of his early influences.

Austin de Lone’s keys really fill out the caffeine tribute between Bill’s kicking acoustic licks on, “Swing Fever”. Kirchen follows that with a faithful version of Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”. I believe that he put as much feeling into it as Bob did on the original and this one song is worth the price of the disc by itself.

Kirchen wakes you back up with an apocryphal rockabilly trucking tune called “Truck Stop at the End of the World”. He slides back in to the traditional country sad story on “Mama Hated Diesels” and it was about (SURPRISE) trucks and truckers.

Bill included a studio version of his most famous, “Hot Rod Lincoln”, but somehow the studio version doesn’t live up to the live rendition. It’s actually as good as anyone could do with this tune in a studio, the guitar and the piano are amazing, but the real charm of this song is the spontaneity of the live show. Personally, I’m glad to have this version, but the live one will always rule.

I wouldn’t have thought of Bill Kirchen bringing another guitarist on board, but you can certainly hear the acoustic licks of Jorma Kaukonen on the double entendre theme, “Talkin’ About Chicken”, while Kirchen sweeps up on his Telecaster.

If you are a Bill Kirchen fan or if you are just hearing of him, this collection of songs is a great representation of his talent and soul. The musicianship is superb and the quality of production puts the  songs right out front. Give it a listen. It may not change your life, but then again, it might. See you at the next weigh station.