CD Review: Bill Kirchen: Seeds and Stems (Proper, 2013)
Bill Kirchen’s latest album provides a studio snapshot of his recent UK tour, highlighting much loved songs from the Commander Cody catalog and Kirchin’s solo years. Waxed quickly with his road band in between live dates, the set feels contemporary rather than anthological, and the performances fit together in a way that the original recordings could never be expected to. Kirchen’s originals have stood both the test of time and reinterpretation: the hard-luck “Semi-Truck,” the Merle Haggard-styled “Mama Hated Diesels” and the futuristic “Truck Stop at the End of the World” still pack their original punch, while the Cajun-flavored dieselbilly burner “Womb to the Tomb” is slowed here into a fetching waltz. Kirchen also makes great use of others’ songs, including an appropriately pitiful rendition of the title tune, a thoughtful reading of Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, it Takes a Train to Cry,” and a signature performance of Charlie Ryan’s “Hot Rod Lincoln.” Kirchen remains a standard bearer for a seamless blend of rock ‘n’ roll, country, boogie-woogie and western swing, and his catalog grows more burnished with each passing year.