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Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone: Transatlanticana (Proper Records) Out now




5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



Bill Kirchen and Austin de Lone are a force to be reckoned with. Having collaborated together on the road and as writers for more than four decades, this is the very first time the pair have recorded an album of their own together.

Kirchen is Austin, Texas-based; de Lone lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but both artists have long-time ties with the UK scene. Kirchen has toured as a guitarist with Nick Lowe and this is Bill’s fourth Proper Records album release. Austin de Lone has toured as keyboard player for Lowe and Elvis Costello, who put out his first solo album on UK label Demon Records.

Bill and Austin first worked together in the mid-70s when they wrote together as the Moonlighters, sending a batch of songs over to Nick owe for Rockpile, but they had no idea the band had decided to split. Nick wrote back and loved the songs, and offered to produce the Moonlighters album in London. “Rush Hour, came out in 1983 on the Edsel label. Since then, Bill and Austin have teamed up with Lowe and Costello many times: de Lone has worked with Lowe, Paul Carrack and Costello on several tours and Kirchen held the guitar chair for Lowe’s critically acclaimed Impossible Bird disc and tour.

Individually they were pioneers in their own right. Kirchen used his trademark Telecaster sound on the 1972 hit “Hot Red Lincoln” as a member of “Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen”.  While Austin was dropping out of University to start the band “Eggs Over Easy”. This was followed by a move to the UK where Austin recorded with Chas Chandler, the Animals bass player and manager of Jimi Hendrix. Many have credited “Eggs Over Easy” as being the instigators of British pub rock, the movement that spawned such acts a Dr Feelgood.

Recorded in London and Austin, Texas, the opening track from this set is the Bill Kirchen-penned tribute to Merle Haggard and the ‘Bakersfield Sound’. “Hounds Of The Bakersfield” swiftly indicates the sheer class and quality across this album. Country, rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, rock and gospel; an album drenched with passion. If country is not your thing, then skip forward a few tracks to the bluesy and soulful rendition of “Losing Hand”. Recorded in London, and for me the stand out track of the album, the Charles E. Calhoun-penned cut, one of Ray Charles’ many hits. At just over six minutes in length, we are transported to a dark and smoke-filled bar room. An appreciation of the depth of Austin’s vocal mastery should kick in on this one, as he rises above the piano and organ. While Bill’s guitar cuts through, all; sat on the foundations of Malcolm Mills’ laid back drumming and Paul Riley’s’ rock solid bass lines.  

Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing” cover takes this timeless classic to an entirely new and fresh place.  Austin and Bill joined on the recording of this famed track by David Carroll on bass and Malcolm Mills on drums, in Texas. Unlike most covers of Dylan’s classic, they ramped up the pace and at times giving us hints of a version that would have been a snug fit for the Pogues had they given this version a shot. It works really well. 

The 14 tracks, including 2 “bonus” cuts, are a healthy mix of covers and tracks written individually or collectively by Bill and/or Austin. “Already Walking” was co-written by Austin and Caroline de Lone. A more contemporary approach makes this track another favourite from the set, with both contributing a vocal .  

Sessions were shared across the transatlantic locations with the US recordings recruiting David Carroll on bass and Rick Richards on drums, while back here in the UK Paul “Bassman” Riley and drummer Malcolm Mills take the credits. For an album recorded across multiple locations, and with different bassists and drummers, never does it sound dislocated. Quite the opposite, it is a very even listen and the quality of these musicians has allowed for a wonderfully cohesive body of work.

“All Tore Up” is a rollicking good old style rock and roll number, which the likes of fast finger picker Albert Lee would eat up and spit out if he were ever to cover it. About breaking up with your girl. Contrasting this is the more sedate “Somebody’s Going Home” a Bill Kirchen and Blackie Farrell co-write, featuring some superb Gospel style harmonies from Bill Kirchen, Paul Riley, Louise Kirchen and Sarah Brown. 

US Americana star Gurf Morlix lends his guitar magic to “Back In The Day”. While playing alongside Bill Kirchen, you really get to hear two exponents of the guitar at the top of their game. Bill’s Vocals on this story of 60s flower power and demos, is a high spot of the album.

The two bonus tracks on the UK release, are “No Need For Knocking” – a Bill and Austin collaboration – and the 1940s novelty country hit, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke That Cigarette”. Written by Merle Travis and Tex Williams, covered by many including Willie Nelson, this version keeping true to its country roots.

What Bill Kirchen and Austin de Lone have done here, is strip the core DNA from country and blues, added  a few ounces of their own magic individually and collectively, stirred in a scattering of their chemistry as a team, and cooked up a delightful album. The ‘Titan of the Telecaster’ and the Godfather of pub rock’ tour the UK this month (March).


By Ian Shipley



1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
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