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King of Dieselbilly

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Album Review

Ever since his early days with Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen in the 1960s, Bill Kirchen has been preaching the gospel of truck-driving music, and picking up a storm on his battered vintage Fender Telecaster while he's been doing it. Kirchen cut five fine albums of witty but potent honky tonk and rockabilly for the Hightone label between 1997 and 2002 (including the live album from his tour with the Twangbangers), and this compilation culls ten songs from four of those discs (for some reason, nothing from 1999's Big Hat made the cut). Kirchen's beloved trucking tunes dominate the set, including a cover of "Looking at the World Through a Windshield," his revved-up originals "Womb to the Tomb" and "Truck Stop at the End of the World," and not one but two live performances of "Hot Rod Lincoln," in which Kirchen shows off his ability to mimic the styles of a flock of other pickers, ranging from Merle Travis to Link Wray. Kirchen is an exceptional player on all ten cuts (a cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" shows he can excel on stuff besides straight country material), and a strong singer and songwriter to boot, but this doesn't hold together with the same cohesion as Tied to the Wheel, Raise a Ruckus, or Hot Rod Lincoln Live!, the albums that provided the bulk of this material, and including both versions of "Hot Rod Lincoln" (which aren't all that different) wasn't an inspired programming choice. King of Dieselbilly is a good introduction to Bill Kirchen's solo work, but if you like this at all, you're advised to dig deeper into this guy's back catalog, which is full of great stuff.

Biography

Born: January 29, 1948 in Ann Arbor, MI

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Bill Kirchen is best known for his work in the '70s with the rebel band Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. Leading the way, this gang of rock & roll honky tonkers cut a wide path through country and rock, creating an intersection where both could meet and meld together their many guises effortlessly. Bill Kirchen was a dominating force behind the success of the Airmen. Meeting up with George Frayne, later known as Commander Cody, in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, set the wheels of Kirchen's...
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King of Dieselbilly, Bill Kirchen
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Contemporaries