Although they played together as part of The Moonlighters back in 1977, and piano player Austin De Lone has guested on several of Bill Kirchen’s albums, variously laid down in Austin, Sausalito and London, Transatlanticana is the first time they’ve actually recorded as a duo. It’s been long overdue.
For those whose musical knowledge might not quite stretch back that far, Bill Kirchen and Austin De Lone were seminal figures in the early 70s. Bill Kirchen as a member of Western Swing country rock revivalists Commander Cody & The Lost Planet Airmen and, having relocated to London from New York, Austin De Lone was a co-founder of Eggs Over Easy, the band credited with launching the British pub rock explosion.
Their common musical pedigree fuels this hugely entertaining collection augmented by an assortment of backing musicians, among them former Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers bassist Paul Riley. It opens in lively style with a nod to the classic Merle Haggard sound on Hounds of Bakersfield. Keeping the honky tonk open with an old Commander Cody nugget, Wine, Wine Wine, Kirchen takes the lead, singing “I got my first tattoo on the very same day I first heard ‘Mama Tried’.” Austin De Lone’s first writing and vocal credit is on the chugging blues boogie Let’s Rock before hitting a rockabilly trail with a cover of Butch Hancock’s Oxblood, that not only features the man himself on backing vocals but also has Gurf Morlix on electric guitar.
There are a further three cuts penned by De Lone on Transatlanticana on which he also sings lead. All Tore Up and, complete with whistling, No Need For Knocking (one of two UK bonus tracks) are, as you might guess from the titles, vintage-styled piano pumping rock ‘n’ roll. Meanwhile, the third, co-written and featuring harmonies by daughter Caroline, Already Walking is more of a country roller.
Keeping it fair, Kirchen’s wife Louise also gets a turn, contributing the twangy moody desert noir ballad Back In The Day. It features Morlix again on guitar, and while she may not sing on this number, she does lend her tones to the electric piano led revival gospel blues Somebody’s Going Home written by her dad and Blackie Farrell (who wrote many a Commander Cody tune).
The other numbers on Transatlanticana are all covers, although Think It Over isn’t the Buddy Holly hit, but rather a soulful 1962 ballad originally recorded by rockabilly star Jimmy Donley and written by wife Lillie Mae and Kenny James, here featuring some beautiful baritone guitar from Kirchen. In an even more soulful mood, De Lone takes the lead on a six minute slow bluesy Losing Hand, the song was written by Jesse Albert Stone under his Charles Calhoun pseudonym and a 1953 hit for Ray Charles. Still in a soul mood, but of slightly later vintage, De Lone also does an excellent job on the Percy Sledge classic Warm and Tender Love.
Going to a very different extreme, they rip it up with a rousing barreling along version of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ that features both rock n roll piano and a dynamic Morlix solo. The final cover, the last track and the second UK bonus, closes shop with what is for many the definitive Commander Cody number, their twangy guitar Western Swing take on Merle Travis/Tex Williams talking blues classic Smoke! Smoke! Smoke That Cigarette.
A long overdue album from two musicians at the top of their game, a hugely entertaining collection.
Transatlanticana is Out Now via Red House Records
Bill Kirchen & Austin De Lone are touring the UK in March and April including two nights at London’s The Troubadour (18 March & 2 April).
Bill Kirchen & Austin De Lone Transatlanticana UK Tour Dates
Sat 18 March – LONDON, The Troubadour
Tue 21 March – SHEFFIELD, Greystones
Wed 22 March – LEICESTER, The Musician
Thu 23 March – NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, Live Theatre, Quayside
Fri 24 March – STOURBRIDGE, Talbot Hotel
Sat 25 March – LEEK, Staffs – Foxlowe Arts Centre
Sun 26 March – BRISTOL – The Golden Lion
Mon 27 March – TOPSHAM, The Globe Hotel
Tue 28 March – BRIGHTON, The Bleach
Wed 29 March – HAVANT, Langstone Sailing Club
Thu 30 March – NUNHEAD, LONDON, The Ivyhouse
Fri 31 March – OXFORD, The Bullingdon
Sat 1 April – LONDON, The Troubadour
Sun 2 April – WHITSTABLE, The Duke Of Cumberland
Photo Credit: Barry Toranto (via Red House Records Press)