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Ear Bliss: One of the kings of twang guitar and a honky tonk surprise

August 16, 2013

Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants

Some big time twang in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week. We look first at the latest release from one of the kings of twang guitar, that being Telecaster master Bill Kirchen. From there it is into the debut album from Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants. Shiflett is best known as lead guitarist with Foo Fighters. He gets his honky tonk Jones on with his new album. Let’s dig in.

Bill Kirchen
“Seeds and Stem”
Proper Records, Ltd.
Bill Kirchen has been fighting the honky tonk wars for some 45 years and during that time has established himself as one of the kings of twang guitar. He’s also established himself as a fine songwriter and bandleader be it with a band or solo. Oh yeah, he is an engaging and highly entertaining live performer. Kirchen’s career began in Ann Arbor, Mich. in the 1960s. After dabbling in folk and blues, he signed on as lead guitarist for Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen in 1969. It was Kirchen who delivered that classic guitar intro to the Cody hit “Hot Rod Lincoln” not to mention co-writing another Lost Planet Airmen classic in “Semi-Truck.” After leaving the Lost Planet Airmen in the mid-1970s, Kirchen went off in a variety of directions before eventually starting his own band, Too Much Fun. Since then, he has divided him time between his band and as a solo artist, not to mention playing guitar for the likes of Nick Lowe, Emmylou Harris, the late Doug Sahm and Link Wray, and Elvis Costello, to name a few. Those guitar chops are on full display on his new release called “Seeds and Stems.” The album is a career-spanning, 13-song retrospective of newly recorded Kirchen classics-and-then-some dating back to the Cody days (“Too Much Fun,” the aforementioned “Hot Rod Lincoln” and “Semi-Truck,” “Mama Hated Diesels,” and fan favorite “Down to Seeds and Stems Again”) and then bringing us through his own original classics like “Rockabilly Funeral,” “Flip Flop,” “Swing Fever” and “Truck Stop at the End of the World,” and just like his live shows, throwing a Bob Dylan favorite into the mix with a terrific cover of “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.” Kirchen fan or not, there’s a lot to like about “Seeds and Stems.” It certifies Kirchen as an American original. Visit
Bill Kirchen appears at the Rhythm & Roots Festival at Ninigret Park in Charlestown on Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday Sept. 1.

Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants
“All Hat and No Cattle”
SideOneDummy Records
Foo Fighter gone country! That’s what the headlines will read. The Foo Fighter in particular is long-time guitarist Chris Shiflett. With the new release called “All Hat and No Cattle,” Shiflett, along with his tidy and tight band The Dead Peasants, deliver nine slabs of solid gold hard country with one original from that same mold. To say this is a spirited set is putting it lightly. The album feels like these guys have been yearning to let it rip honky tonk style all their lives. A six piece including Shiflett, the fellows romp and stomp their way through C&W classics from the likes of Del Reeves (“Good Time Charlie’s”), Jim Ed Brown (the beer drinker’s anthem “Pop a Top”), Wynn Stewart (“Playboy” and “Happy Part of Town”), Merle Haggard (“Skid Row”), Faron Young (“Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young”), Buck Owens (“King of Fools”), Waylon Jennings (“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”) and Don Rich (“Guitar Pickin’ Man”). Being Southern Californians, there’s a definite nod to Bakersfield what with the Haggard, Stewart, Owens, and Rich covers. “All Hat and No Cattle” is an album remindful of a few other West Coast rockers who went country, namely the Supersuckers and Mike Ness. This is actually the second foray into country by Shiflett and his Dead Peasants band, but this venture really dives into the 100-proof stuff. Serious or not, “All Hat and No Cattle” is pure country fun. Visit
Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.


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