The Washington Post

Bill Kirchen album review, ‘Seeds and Stems’

Bill Kirchen will perform in the Washington, D.C. area. (IAN GITTLER)
“Seeds and Stems”

Kindred spirits: Commander Cody,
Don Rich, Merle Haggard

Show: Saturday at the Birchmere. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500. $29.50.

Recorded on the fly during a brief British tour, Bill Kirchen’s new album, “Seeds and Stems,” isn’t a concert recording. But it’s easy to overlook that, especially when the guitarist/singer-songwriter, bassist Maurice Cridlin and drummer Jack O’Dell are busy reinvigorating concert favorites with a mix of hot licks, honky-tonk humor and rockabilly verve. All that’s missing is a throng of cheering fans.

There’s a lot to cheer about, too, much of it vibrantly animated by Kirchen’s twang-centric virtuosity. Sure, longtime followers won’t be surprised when “Hot Rod Lincoln” takes a parade route that gives Kirchen a chance to pay tribute to myriad influences, from Buck Owens to Iggy Pop, but that doesn’t make the ride any less enjoyable.

On the other hand, Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” laced with sliding double stops, is a welcome reminder of Kirchen’s soulful side, and it’s not the only one. “Down to Seeds and Stems Again” and “Mama Hated Diesels” qualify as well. “Womb to the Tomb,” a ghost-trucker tale, benefits from a slow, wonderfully evocative take.

“Seeds and Stems” isn’t strictly a trio affair. Other performers — notably keyboardist Austin de Lone and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen — play a role. But the fundamental sound is lean, loose and about as live as studio sessions get, right down to the amusing bonus track coda, “Talkin’ About Chicken.”

Mike Joyce

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