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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bill Kirchen - Word To The Wise

Bill Kirchen - Word To The Wise
2010, Proper American

Bill Kirchen is best known for contributing dazzling guitar work in support of Commander Cody, most notably on the 1973 hit “Hot Rod Lincoln”. Kirchen has become one of the elder statesmen of Americana music. On May 25, 2010, Kirchen returns with his ninth album, Word To The Wise, dancing down the lane between good old fashioned rock n roll and country.

Word To The Wise opens with “Bump Wood”, a delightful early rock piece you won’t be able to resist based on an old joke about mortality. The song is highly danceable and likely to have appeal across generations and genres. “Shelley Winter’s Love” is a rueful country affair full of wordplay, and features guest appearances by Nick Lowe and Paul Carrack. “Man In The Bottom Of The Well” has a brilliant guest vocal from Elvis Costello; the song is dark with hints of blues in its lineage, and is inspired by the sort of energy that can only occur when the artists were having fun recording/playing the song.

Commander Cody sits in on “I Don’t Work That Cheap”, a fun tune that takes some liberties with history (ala Forrest Gump), but does so with pre-meditation rather than happenstance. This song is pure rock n roll, great for a party. Kirchen takes a turn towards classic country of Roger Miller on “Husbands And Wives” with Chris O’Connell sitting in. Kirchen keeps the classic feel of the song, sounding like his version might have danced right off the stage of the Grand ‘Ol Opry. Kevin “Blackie” Farrell sits in on the cowboy tune “Open Range”. The song it solid, but the vocal here is perhaps the most contrived sounding performance on the album.

“Arkansas Diamond” is a fun and catchy tune about finding the right girl; an amusing bit of rockabilly. Vaudeville and jazz meet on “Word To The Wise”, with Dan Hicks sharing vocals on this classic reminder that sometimes our own business is the only business. The song is funny and socially apt while remaining eminently tuneful. Maria Muldaur sits in on “Ain’t Got Time For The Blues” with the most dynamic vocal performance on the album, a slinky and sultry number that simply blows the roof off. Word To The Wise closes with “Value Of The Moon”, a wonderfully entertaining and catchy tune; whimsical but full of serious, vibrant musicianship.

Word To The Wise has all of the elements needed to be highly successful. The musicianship is brilliant, the song selection is entertaining and Kirchen and his guests project personality plus throughout. It is difficult to know what goes through the minds of GRAMMY voters, but it’s hard to imagine Kirchen and Word To The Wise not receiving at least due consideration. Word To The Wise is that good.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Bill Kirchen at or Word To The Wise drops on May 25, 2010. You can pre-order copies on CD from

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