Album Review

Kirchen, Bill – “Word to The Wise” – [Proper American]

ArtCrimes   5/20/2010   CD, Country

Seems like every artist gets to a point in the career when they think, “Why don’t I invite all my friends to guest on my new album?” This is usually followed by the sound of a thousand phone calls from lawyers, resulting in historic mismatches such as R.L.Burnside with Kid Rock, Alison Moorer with Kid Rock, and probably an inevitable exhumation of Ray Charles’s corpse to appear with Kid Rock. Fear not, Bill Kirchen not only ignored Kid Rock’s poke on Facebook but instead did duets with people he actually knows, respects, and has played with before. It does make for some stylistic leaps here and there, but the default setting is classic country weepers and honky tonk with side trips to swing, blues, and whatever it is that Elvis Costello does. (“Man In The Bottom of The Well” is a nice throwback to Elvis’ “angry young man” sound, and Kirchen gets to do some biting guitar heroics). Some original tunes are made to order for the guests, and suit them fine, and the cover tunes are thankfully so obscure you won’t immediately think, “Oh, this was much better done by Merle.” Among Kirchen’s own numbers here, “Time Will Tell the Story” is a swampy country-soul number (and may be my favorite here), “I Don’t Work that Cheap” is a goofy, mid-60s-era Dylan pastiche, and “Valley of the Moon” apparently features Norton Buffalo’s last recording session. (( crimes ))

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