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In Concert: Bill Kirchen at Birchmere

bill kirchenPictured here at Jammin' Java in 2008, Bill Kirchen took fans on a joy ride at Birchmere, Saturday. (Gerald Martineau/TWP)

By Mike Joyce

At the Birchmere on Saturday night, guitarist Bill Kirchen used some high octane to compensate for the absence of Elvis Costello, Maria Muldaur and other notable guest artists who contributed to his new CD, "Word To The Wise." After cranking up “Hot Rod Lincoln" for yet another spin, he embarked on a joy ride spliced with a wild series of detours that evoked trademarks riffs associated with everyone from Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Link Wray to Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix--all this amid echoes of John Philip Sousa, Earl Scruggs and Iggy Pop.

(Telecaster mastery, after the jump)

While that excursion in overdrive was one of several reminders of Kirchen’s seminal work with Commander Cody, most of the show featured his seasoned, shuffle-geared trio performing songs off the new recording and its predecessor, "Hammer Of The Honky Tonk Gods." Fluid and lighthearted, Kirchen’s mastery of Telecaster is so engaging that it’s easy to overlook his talent for composing and singing. Yet when he kicked off the show with “Bump Wood,” the clever, opening track on his new release, it wasn’t hard to imagine someone with a lot more commercial clout in country music--say, Brad Paisley-- riding the tune to the top of the charts.

Other examples of Kirchen’s impressive song craft surfaced during the show, including tunes from "Word To The Wise" that provided sharply contrasting showcases for Costello (“Man In The Bottom Of The Well”) and Cody (“I Don’t Work That Cheap”). Performing songs that featured cameos by Muldaur and Chris O’Connell on the album, vocalist Louise Kirchen, the guitarist’s wife, added some poignant and harmonious touches to a guitar-spangled bash.

By Chris Richards  |  July 5, 2010; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Bill Kirchen  
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