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Bill Kirchen | The Proper Years

Commander Cody's hot-rodding guitar hero steps into the spotlight.

It’s been a good month for Commander Cody fans. A couple of weeks ago, the vintage double-live set Bear’s Sonic Journals: Found In The Ozone arrived. Now, we’ve got this two-disc compilation of twangy tracks and rarities from founding guitarist and Telecaster master-blaster Bill Kirchen. While it definitely harkens back to the glory days of the Lost Planet Airmen with plenty of chicken-pickin’ country-rock, honky-tonk and hillbilly boogie — including new renditions of old faves like Hot Rod Lincoln, Mama Hated Diesels, Too Much Fun and Down To Seeds And Stems Again — it also cuts a pretty wide swath through the roots landscape, venturing into blues, jazz, rockabilly and more. So along with being essential to the Commander’s cult, it’s a keep for anyone who digs likeminded artists like Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello — some of whom show up to lend a hand on this cool collection. And while nobody would call Kirchen a gifted vocalist, his world-class fretboard prowess more than makes up for it. Hell, his turbocharged update of Hot Rod Lincoln — which detours mid-song into a lickety-split litany of licks lifted from dozens of legendary pickers and players — is worth the price of admission alone. Crank it up and rock that boogie till the break of day.



THE PRESS RELEASE: “Telecaster master Bill Kirchen was right there at the BIG BANG of Americana as a founding member Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen in 1967. Playing guitar has been his only job ever since. Over a 10-year period commencing in 2006, he made albums exclusively at Proper Records’ Specific Sound studio in London — until it was demolished when we moved premises. All 38 tracks, including some bonus material, are available in this two-CD set. Guests include Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Paul Carrack, Commander Cody, Dan Hicks, Maria Muldaur, Butch Hancock and more in this tour-de-force of Americana.”