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Bill Kirchen

Seeds and Stems – 2013 (Proper)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by Bill Kirchen

The latest Bill Kirchen release is an interesting concept - a studio album attempting to capture and convey the energy and musical chemistry of a touring band firing on all cylinders. Jam-based bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead tried to replicate the improvisational spirit of their live shows in the studio over the years to varying degrees of success, but the results on "Seeds and Stems" are decidedly positive.

The secret to the album's success comes from the fact that Kirchen and the members of his outstanding touring band, Too Much Fun, recorded the songs in-between gigs during a two-week tour of the UK. With the previous day's performance still fresh in mind, the band was definitely in the pocket and producer Paul Riley was able to capture that synergy in the studio.

As you might expect when listening to "The Titan of the Telecaster," the twangier tunes, especially those focused on truckin'/truckers, are excellent. The apocalyptic Truck Stop At The End Of The World is a humorous rockabilly rocket, while Flip Flop with its trucker lingo is a more laid-back affair. The hard-charging Benzedrine ballad Semi Truck, featuring a nice bass solo from Maurice Cridlin, is a twangy slice of heaven that brings to mind Kirchen's work with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Speaking of which, you can't help but love this album's version of Hot Rod Lincoln, a song which Commander Cody and company propelled the whole way to number nine on the U.S. charts in 1972. A centerpiece of Kirchen live performances, audiences love this song, especially the section paying tribute to some of history's greatest guitar players and their most famous licks. During this long improv, Kirchen plays quick snippets as the original artists pull over allowing the protagonist to race on by.

Although Kirchen's unique take on Hot Rod Lincoln has been included on previous releases including the remarkable "26 Days On The Road" live set from The TwangBangers, this version is notable because it is both the first studio recording of the extended version and it also features Austin de Lone delivering some famous piano lines.