Photos by Arnie Goodman
Bill Kirchen made his annual appearance at Joe’s Pub, this year with Austin de Lone, his partner on their latest CD, Transatlanticana; the two men have collaborated periodically since the ’70s, but Transatlanticana is their first joint album. Kirchen, one of the most accomplished guitarists alive, traded on and off with pianist de Lone (Eggs Over Easy, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello) as they tore through the whole album.
Resplendent in cowboy chic, Kirchen began with “The Hound of Bakersfield,” a tribute to Merle Haggard, who sadly passed away shortly after the song was recorded. Sure-as-shit Bakersfield country music, Kirchen’s crystal-clear licks set the tone for the evening, but then, with nary a pause, de Lone sang one of his own, the catchy “Already Walking,” with its own bright country beat. The two then launched into “Wine, Wine, Wine [do your thing],” on which Kirchen’s Telecaster sounded like a steel guitar and de Lone’s delicate piano riffs sounded like angels.
Convention dictates I choose highlights, but they’re just augmented blips on an evening of highs. “All Tore Up”—on which de Lone pulled out his best Jerry Lee Lewis chops and pounded out a memorable piano solo—appeared a favorite with the band (Kirchen’s fellow-Austin resident, bassist David Carol and former Ray Wylie Hubbard drummer Rick Richards). In a different mood, I really enjoyed the tender and very powerful “Somebody’s Going Home,” about leaving this Earth. Kirchen loves a Dylan tune, so “The Times They Are A-Changin’” fulfilled its destiny as the closer and another high point, a rollicking, balls-to-the-wall version in double time.
The encore, Kirchen’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” (hysterically updated on his Seeds and Stems CD from Kirchen’s Commander Cody days to include classic riffs from many, many guitarists) included not only guitar morsels from Johnny Cash, Iggy Pop, the Ventures, Hendrix, etc., but tips of the hat to hippies, Schaefer Beer and tennis queen Billie Jean King, semi-trucks; de Lone’s own contributions of snippets from keyboard icons Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Little Richard and Professor Longhair (among others) added another welcome dimension. It’s the most fun you’ll have playing Name That Tune, I promise.
With any luck, the two will tour behind this new album for some time to come. Catch a show if you can; if not, buy the Transatlanticana CD and re-read this review.