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Bill Kirchen

Hot Rod Lincoln - LIVE! – 1997 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Bill Kirchen

Bill Kirchen made a name for himself many years ago as the guitarist, and sometime vocalist, for Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, a group whose influence is often heard (but seldom acknowledged) in today's country underground.

As a solo artist, Kirchen has carried on in that group's tradition, mixing rock 'n' roll with offbeat country songs. And though he wasn't the vocalist on Cody's hit version of "Hot Rod Lincoln," that hasn't stopped him from making it the centerpiece of his shows. This live album avoids the more obvious pitfalls of the genre, as the audience doesn't get in the way. A long version of "Hot Rod Lincoln." in which Kirchen imitates a slew of other guitarists, follows two other Cody chestnuts. It seems to come too early, but then Kirchen slows things down with mostly new, mostly countrier numbers, before building back to another climax with the Chuck Berry influenced "Rockin' Over China," then ending with a brief instrumental "encore."

It's a nicely paced show, one that Kirchen/Cody fans will want to hear.