Roots radical

Bill Kirchen

Bill Kirchen is a man of many titles. Some people call him one of the “founding fathers of Americana”; others, “Titan of the Telecaster.” He helped pioneer the Americana movement, as well as the “twangcore” and “dieselbilly” scenes.

Many know him as the lighting-in-a-bottle guitarist behind country rock’s Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen — the band’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” was a hit in 1972 — but as he tours in support of his latest album, Seeds and Stems, perhaps the title that suits him best is “elder statesman.”

“We played what we considered more of the blood-and-guts, hard-country stuff of that era, but we also played a big mixture of blues, Western swing, rock ’n’ roll and country. I think we do get to be called the founding fathers of Americana,” Kirchen said. “I’m not the guy who said that, but I won’t argue with it.”

Regardless, he continues to keep an eye on the next big move. Seeds and Stems is being hailed by critics as one of the year’s best Americana albums; Kirchen believes it’s because he gave the songs time to breathe and grow before recording.

“Some of the songs I have been playing for a number of years,” he said. “A lot were favorites of the live show, so that particular band had a chance to really get deep inside them.”

Kirchen will play old favorites, new tracks and maybe even road-test a few new gems on Thursday at The Blue Door — a venue he values.

rock and we insist on having a good time,” Kirchen said. “Generally,
that means that we all do: you, me, the audience. It’s going to be
wonderful. We’ll do a couple of tearjerkers; we’ll do it all. Bottom
line: The Blue Door has the highest percentage of music lovers. It’s not
like it’s a place to go to spawn; it’s a place where people go to
listen to music, and that’s fantastic.”

Kirchen is onstage, however, all the titles and innovations come down
now to the same thing they did when he started playing in the late
1960s: making everyone in the room feel “joyous.”

would hope that the kind of music we’re playing helps people consider
being thoughtful and compassionate, and I think that being thoughtful
and compassionate is in jeopardy right now,” he said. “Music’s a joyous
event and I just hope that that rubs off, because, man, we need it right
now, don’t we?”

Louis Fowler

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