Midway through “Hot Rod Lincoln”, the title track of Bill Kirchen’s first solo live album, the former Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen axman takes the audience on a pedal-to-the-metal musical detour. Kirchen revs it up and passes a whole slew of notables — everyone from Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy and Marty Robbins, to Bo Diddley, Link Wray and several Kings (Freddie, B.B., Albert, Ben E. and Elvis) — and nods to each one with the subject’s own signature guitar riff played on his battered Telecaster. It’s a clever way to acknowledge his influences, breathe new life into an old tune, and have some fun all at the same time (he even passes the Sex Pistols).
A little bit of goofiness and a whole lotta rock ‘n’ roll, country, rockabilly, boogie and blues is exactly what to expect on any given night with Kirchen and his band Too Much Fun (Johnny Castle on bass and Jack O’Dell on drums). Taken from three consecutive February 1997 shows at the Globe Theater in Berlin, Maryland, Hot Rod Lincoln Live! does a good job of capturing the eclectic sound of a guy who has recorded or played with the likes of Gene Vincent, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Emmylou Harris and Don Walser.
Kirchen’s big, booming, bottom-dwelling guitar sound has been aptly described as dieselbilly, so it’s no surprise the album opens with a double blast of big rig rock — the new original “Big Mack’s Off The Blocks” and the Del Reeves staple “Looking At The World Through A Windshield”. Other highlights include “Cold Country Blues”, penned by longtime associate Kevin “Blackie” Farrell but reminiscent of “California Okie” from the old Cody songbook; and “Swing Fever”, an ode to caffeine from Cody’s most recent studio album, Have Love, Will Travel.
Refreshingly, the crowd noise is pushed way back in the mix; you get the feeling you’re amongst a handful of friends at the front table of a neighborhood tavern, waiting for Kirchen and the boys to crank up the third set of the night.