When rock ‘n’ roll crawled onto land in the 1950s, it emerged from the morass comprising jump blues, rhythm & blues, country, and hillbilly music. Around 1970, when rock ‘n’ roll was only as far removed from its humble beginnings as today’s music has advanced along the evolutionary chain from, say, A Flock of Seagulls, a handful of enterprising fossil hunters descended into their rockalogical digs and emerged with what would prove to be artifacts of pure country gold. At the forefront of the expeditions was Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen, and a principal within this company was guitarist Bill Kirchen.
Several tracks on Kirchen’s latest effort with his current band, Too Much Fun, continue the Commander Cody legacy, notably “Swing Fever” and “I Heard the Highway”. There’s also firm evidence here of Kirchen’s longtime involvement with Nick Lowe. “The Heart is a Muscle”, “Swingin’ Teardrops” and “Have Love, Will Travel” would be less surprising on Lowe’s The Impossible Bird than on this record, nestled amongst the diesel rockers “Womb to the Tomb” and “Nitro Express”. At least two selections bring to mind another pivotal Lowe project: “Don’t Be True” and Kirchen’s treatment of the traditional “What’s the Matter With the Mill” take off in pure Rockpile tradition.
This record’s personnel differs from Kirchen’s last Black Top release, Tombstone Every Mile. Bassist Johnny Castle and drummer Jack O’Dell have taken over rhythm section duties in fine fashion. Other players include producer Peter Bonta, who adds a spicy accordion to the CD’s Cajun fare, and legendary pedal steel virtuoso Buddy Charlton.
Kirchen’s voice is like a warm, sincere handshake welcoming the listener to each track. As always, the guitar work is superb. Unlike many guitar slingers, Kirchen resists the “Look, Ma — no hands!” temptation. A guitarist’s guitarist, Kirchen’s song-oriented instrumental lines have a Shaker-like simplicity and seldom betray the considerable virtuosity of the craftsman.
The diversity of material makes this album seem somewhat unfocused. However, if viewed through the lens of Kirchen’s eclectic past, the image sharpens and one can see the common theme, as stated by the band’s name — too much fun!