Bill Kirchen

Seeds and Stems

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As the guitarist in Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, Bill Kirchen was one of the pioneers of roots rock and western swing in the early '70s and, ever since, he's carried the torch, ripping it up whenever he could've just as easily chosen to lay back. On Seeds & Stems, his 2013 album, he revisits many songs he's played often over the years, once again cutting "Hot Rod Lincoln," but also the title track, "Too Much Fun," and Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry." It's a familiar set but it's played by perhaps the best bar band you can imagine, with the group still getting a thrill from playing familiar changes. Throughout it all, Kirchen dazzles but never grandstands on his Telecaster; he knows how to spin out riffs and solos without begging for attention yet still commanding the listeners through his understated gymnastics. Kirchen has always been tasteful but his playing has gotten sharper over the years, which gives Seeds & Stems precision but also depth, as he knows these songs and styles inside-out yet can still find new nooks and crannies hidden deep within them.

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