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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. Letâ€™s dig in.
â€śSeeds and Stemâ€ť
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. Heâ€™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. Kirchenâ€™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 â€śHot Rod Lincolnâ€ť not to mention co-writing another Lost Planet Airmen classic in â€śSemi-Truck.â€ť 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 â€śSeeds and Stems.â€ť The album is a career-spanning, 13-song retrospective of newly recorded Kirchen classics-and-then-some dating back to the Cody days (â€śToo Much Fun,â€ť the aforementioned â€śHot Rod Lincolnâ€ť and â€śSemi-Truck,â€ť â€śMama Hated Diesels,â€ť and fan favorite â€śDown to Seeds and Stems Againâ€ť) and then bringing us through his own original classics like â€śRockabilly Funeral,â€ť â€śFlip Flop,â€ť â€śSwing Feverâ€ť and â€śTruck Stop at the End of the World,â€ť and just like his live shows, throwing a Bob Dylan favorite into the mix with a terrific cover of â€śIt Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.â€ť Kirchen fan or not, thereâ€™s a lot to like about â€śSeeds and Stems.â€ť It certifies Kirchen as an American original. Visit www.billkirchen.com.
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
â€śAll Hat and No Cattleâ€ť
Foo Fighter gone country! Thatâ€™s what the headlines will read. The Foo Fighter in particular is long-time guitarist Chris Shiflett. With the new release called â€śAll Hat and No Cattle,â€ť 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 (â€śGood Time Charlieâ€™sâ€ť), Jim Ed Brown (the beer drinkerâ€™s anthem â€śPop a Topâ€ť), Wynn Stewart (â€śPlayboyâ€ť and â€śHappy Part of Townâ€ť), Merle Haggard (â€śSkid Rowâ€ť), Faron Young (â€śLive Fast, Love Hard, Die Youngâ€ť), Buck Owens (â€śKing of Foolsâ€ť), Waylon Jennings (â€śAre You Sure Hank Done It This Way?â€ť) and Don Rich (â€śGuitar Pickinâ€™ Manâ€ť). Being Southern Californians, thereâ€™s a definite nod to Bakersfield what with the Haggard, Stewart, Owens, and Rich covers. â€śAll Hat and No Cattleâ€ť 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, â€śAll Hat and No Cattleâ€ť is pure country fun. Visit www.sideonedummy.com.
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.