Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: Bill Kirchen, "Word To The Wise"

A true American musical storyteller, Bill Kirchen has been taking his listeners on a wonderful journey for over 40 years. It spans all parts of the planet, including an icy road north of Bangor Maine and Rockin’ Over China. He’s a certified guitar genius (which can only be experienced by seeing him live during his famous guitar medley) But this is the next best thing.

Over the many years since he first started playing with Commander Cody in the late 1960s, Kirch has worked with a ton of amazing folks. “Word To The Wise” (Proper American) has Bill doing duets with Dan Hicks (hilarious!) and Maria Muldaur, (sassy!), stepping back and just playing some killer guitar as Elvis Costello shreds his tune “Man in the Bottom of the Well”, reuniting with Kevin “Blackie” Farrell for a wonderful out-west song called “Open Range”, and bringing back Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives”, superbly assisted on vocals by original Asleep at the Wheel singer Chris O’Connell.

Bill also does a new take on his classic “I Don’t Work That Cheap”, where he’s joined by the good Commander himself. And the closing number, “Valley of the Moon”, is a haunting chronicle of Sonoma County that Bill wrote in honor of it being the place he met wife Louise. It features one of the final recorded performances by legendary harmonica player Norton Buffalo, who died shortly after he cut his part.

Sprinkled throughout are also several non-duet samples of Bill doing what he does best…Dieselbilly! All in all, a most satisfying collection of songs that will hopefully turn on a new generation of listeners to American music they’ve never heard before. But should!

4 1/2 Stars