If you’re of a certain age the name Bill Kirchen will drag you back to the days when Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen acted as a gateway drug into country music, a Texas alternative to Gram Parson’s cosmic American music. Kirchen was the guitar gunslinger and occasional vocalist in Cody’s band and responsible for some of their finest songs. As a solo artist he’s kept the Austin freak flag flying with his truck filled boogies for the past 40 years and his latest album, recorded in London in a pell mell fashion sees him revisit his back catalogue with an energy that belies his vintage state.
Selected songs from his solo years and vintage Airmen classics are retooled with Kirchen in fine voice and twanging away on his telecaster. Whether he’s rocking the joint or jerking teardrops on the supreme title song or the ultimate sad trucker lament, Mama Hated Diesels all the cuts here are magnificent fun retaining the irreverence of the Cody crew but with an undeniable love and affection for the genre he inhabits. The band are tight, Kirchen’s solos are top notch country twang and he remains a fine singer. Cody classics such as Too Much Fun, Seeds and Stems, Mama Hated Diesels and Semi Truck (full title-Here I Sit, All Alone With a Broken Heart, I Took Three Bennies and My Semi-Truck Won’t Start) reignite a spark for anyone who hankers after those halcyon days and his signature song, Hot Rod Lincoln is transformed into an epic pastiche of numerous country and pop/rock icons as Kirchen adopts their various guitar styles.
The later songs are just as good with Rockabilly Funeral ploughing a great blues rhythm while Womb To The Tomb slinks with a Southern vibe that is somewhat akin to the Drive By Truckers. Truck Stop at the End of the World just about sums up Kirchen, it’s a smoking hot truck driving song with tremendous guitar fills as he tells a fantastical tale of how truckers will survive World War 3. The veteran SF guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, ex Jefferson Airplane adds some fine acoustic guitar to the country picking of Talkin’ About Chicken while Kirchen sneaks in an excellent laid back version of Dylan’s It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry. All in all an excellent album and well recommended whether you were ever high in the ozone or just interested in a master craftsman setting out his wares.