As the chief guitar twanger in Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airman, the avuncular Kirchen was a godlike figure to the UK’s pub-rock fraternity in the 70s. Subsequent years found him saddling up with Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, both of whom reunite with their old friend on this endlessly thrilling goodtime collection.
Costello is at his grittiest on a gem from Kirchen’s busy back catalogue, Man In The Bottom Of The Well, his ferocious double-tracked vocal pounded against the speakers by Bill’s reverberating guitar. There’s more reserved picking, however, when Lowe and Paul Carrack give their best Everlys impersonation on the Merle Haggard ballad, Shelly’s Winter Love.
Further guests, including Maria Muldaur and Dan Hicks, join the party, but it’s Kirchen as master of ceremonies who keeps the rockin’ vibes rolling and economical licks slicing through the rustic drawl of his vocals on Bump Wood and I Don’t Work That Cheap. A fitting companion to his 2007 “comeback” release, Hammer Of The Honky Tonk Gods, which readers are equally urged to seek out.