Bill Kirchen: Live Last Night

kirchen

Live Last Night

By Mike Joyce

Hearing Bob Dylan at two New port Folk Festivals in the mid-'60's "ruined me for normal work," confessed singer, songwriter and guitarist Bill Kirchen at the Birchmere on Saturday night, in between overhauling two Dylan classics: a sleek, harmonically embellished rendition of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" and a vibrantly electric version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

Mostly, though, Kirchen celebrated his passion for all things twang, with a colorful mix of truck-driving songs, honky-tonk laments, Telecaster-driven novelties and tales of assorted misadventures.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Some of the songs were newly minted, appearing on Kirchen's latest CD, "Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods," while others recalled his seminal work with Commander Cody and his affection for vintage country recordings. At one point Kirchen's songwriter wife, Louise,
helped poignantly revive the Ray Price hit "I've Got a New Heartache."

Yet most of the tunes were arranged for a rhythmically aggressive trio, featuring bassist Mac Cridlin and drummer Jack O'Dell. (O'Dell, no slouch himself when it comes to composing a honky-tonk lyric, mused, "I might have been a lawyer, if I could have passed the bar.") What set the show apart was Kirchen's extraordinary versatility on guitar. He can drop signature licks faster than TMZ can drop names, and in paying tribute to the likes of Luther Perkins, Don Rich, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and other guitar greats, he never ran out of ideas or inspiration.

Ruthie and the Wranglers, featuring singer-songwriter Ruth Logsdon, opened with an engaging honky-tonk and rockabilly set. Several members of both bands teamed up for the encores, which included Logsdon's high-spirited performance of "Blue Moon of Kentucky."

By David Malitz |  July 19, 2009; 8:56 PM ET Live Last Night
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