Thundersnow and lightning licks

Earlier today, we had the second outbreak of thundersnow in our corner of Wisconsin this year. Thundersnow is exactly what it sounds like — thunder and lightning during a snowstorm.

It was just another surreal aspect of what was kind of a weird day.

I wonder what Bill Kirchen thought about it all.

“The Titan of the Telecaster” was in town, wrapping up a three-night stand in our local casino lounge, sharing a bunch of fine, good-humored country, rock and rockabilly tunes and showing off some mad guitar skills.

But I think Bill Kirchen can handle weird. After all, he went to high school with Iggy Pop. And he was part of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen from the late ’60s to the mid-’70s.

Kirchen played a bunch of his own fine material before ever getting to any Commander Cody stuff. There were some nice tunes off his most recent CD — “Word To The Wise,” on Proper American Records — but he had none to sell us. The shipment hadn’t arrived.

(On that CD, you’ll hear Kirchen with Elvis Costello on the hard-edged “Man In the Bottom of the Well” and with his old friend George Frayne, the Commander himself, on the rowdy “I Don’t Work That Cheap.” Other guests include old friends Dan Hicks, Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Maria Muldaur.)

I usually don’t read up on acts I haven’t seen. I like to be surprised. So it was when Kirchen tore into “Hot Rod Lincoln” as the final number. He turned it into an extended jam in which that Lincoln was passed by cars driven by about two dozen guitar players. In so doing, Kirchen showed those mad guitar skills by offering a signature riff each time. Turns out it’s a staple of Kirchen’s shows. I could list them all, but listen to Kirchen channel them instead.

“Hot Rod Lincoln,” Bill Kirchen, from “Hot Rod Lincoln Live,” 1997.

Hearing all those guitar styles crammed into one song reminded me of something I heard on that same casino lounge stage two years ago.

In that show, Chris Spedding did “Guitar Jamboree,” showing off his considerable skills by playing “a few flash guitar solos” in the style of almost a dozen different guitarists.

“Guitar Jamboree,” Chris Spedding, from “Ready Spedding Go,” 1984. That LP is out of print. The song originally was released in the UK on “Chris Spedding,” 1975. It’s also available on “The Very Best of Chris Spedding,” a 2007 import.


Filed under April 2011, Sounds

3 responses to “Thundersnow and lightning licks

  1. Scott Thomson

    Not familiar with Kirchen specifically, but have always enjoyed Commander Cody — not just “Hot Rod Lincoln,” which has those great lines, “the lines on the road just looked like dots.” But also “Lost in the Ozone Again,” and haven’t we all been there …? Those are great names associated with him — I own recordings by Muldaur, Hicks,etc. — but if they play in a casino in the Midwest, I will not patronize them — those are racist organizations.

  2. Lynchie fm Aberdeen

    Check out Bill Kirchen’s “Hammer Of The Honkytonk Gods” – fantastic stuff.

  3. AMD

    Wods To The Wise is a really good record. To my mind one of the best of 2010.

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