Album Reviews

Bill Kirchen and Austin de Lone


Artist:     Bill Kirchen and Austin de Lone

Album:     Transatlanticana

Label:     Red House Records

Release Date:     08/29/2016


How about this pairing? – uniting the Titan of the Telecaster with the Godfather of Pub Rock to record both in Austin, TX and London, UK? I’m sure you are familiar with Bill Kirchen, founding member of Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen (of “Hot Rod Lincoln” fame), but you might be less knowledgeable about Austin de Lone. His story is relatively new to me, too.

Keyboardist de Lone now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, but spent the early part of his career in England. He dropped out of Harvard to start the band Eggs Over Easy, moving to London and recording with Jimi Hendrix’s producer/manager and Animals bass player Chas Chandler in 1970. His band was the progenitor of British pub rock, which later led to punk rock and new wave.

As you view the liner notes, it appears that the difference between the Austin and London sessions is simply the rhythm section, but fortunately personnel is listed for each track, revealing such guests as Gurf Morlix and Butch Hancock in Austin, for example. Three tracks were also recorded in California with a different lineup. Kirchen and de Lone trade off in both lead vocals and songwriting, although there are several covers as well as co-penned tunes from each man’s wife. Both artists have ties to the UK, principally working with Nick Lowe. Collaborations between Kirchen and de Lone stretch all the way back to 1970. Yes, this album is long overdue.

As the album title suggests, all the genres that play into Americana music are represented here. The focus is on the songs, most of which are three-to-four minutes, rather than extensive soloing.

Here are a few highlights of their strong repertoire: the opener, “Hounds of Bakersfield” is a tribute to Merle Haggard, who unfortunately passed just a month after it was recorded. “Oxblood” features a duet between Kirchen and the writer, Hancock, as Morlix contributes scorching guitar. Vintage soul imbues the vocals of de Lone on “Warm and Tender Love.” Kirchen takes inspiration from the Staples Singers on “Somebody’s Goin’ Home” and collaborates again with Morlix on ”Back in the Day” and for a blistering take on Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing.” These are two musicians having fun, drawing on their many influences, and playing with sheer joy.

Kirchen and de Lone will be extensively touring the record. Look for them at Joe’s Pub in NYC on Aug. 31, The Tin Angel in Philly on Sept. 1, and at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco on Oct. 2.

– Jim Hynes

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