The week marks our first Compact Capsules of the year featuring 2007 releases. We’ve got a terrific, roots-leaning pair of recording to kick the year off in rousing fashion what with new wax from the King of Dieselbilly himself, Bill Kirchen, and father-son roots rockers The Spanic Boys. Let’s check ’em out.
Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods
Proper American PRPACD005
On his first release of new material since 2001’s Tied To the Wheel, Telecaster master Bill Kirchen opts for twang, as in the stringbending title track tribute to his trusty ax, and soul, as in a cover of the late Arthur Alexander’s “If It’s Really Got To Be This Way” and hearkening back to his Michigan roots on reworkings of Motor City nuggets like “Soul Cruisin’ ” and “Devil With The Blue Dress”, brew. Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods is a record that reverberates with seasoning and class from one of the true, roadhouse-tested pros in the business. A guitar virtuoso often referred to as the “King of Dieselbilly” for the big twang he injects into his songs, contrary to previous releases it’s the soul angle that gives this latest release a simmering sort of pungency. Recorded over the pond in London with such stalwarts as Nick Lowe and Geraint Watkins as part of the studio band, Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods is one of those genre-blurring affairs where country, blues, swing, doo wop, soul and rockabilly all co-exist in genre-blurring fashion. Kirchen can still tear it up with the best of them (as he clearly displays on this album), but what these ears hear more on Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods is an artist who, like fine wine, gets better with age. (Proper American Records, P.O. Box 34114, Pensacola, FL 32607, or www.properamerican.com)
Bill Kirchen performs at a CD release party for Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods at Johnny D’s in Somerville, MA on Friday, February 23. Johnny D’s is located at 17 Holland Street in Davis Square. Call (617) 776-9667.
Cinaps Records CINAPS008
Let’s start off with a trivia question of the Saturday Night Live variety. Who was the unscheduled, last minute musical guest replacement for then mega-star Sinead O’Connor on a 1990 episode when she boycotted because of Andrew Dice Clay’s selection as host for the show? Why none other than the Spanic Boys. One of the highest rated SNLs ever simply because O’Connor was the scheduled musical guest and had a swirl of controversy surrounding her, when time came for the music part of the show the faces on the millions viewing went from eager anticipation to dumbfounded when instead of O’Connor there on the screen were two rather chunky, flat-topped dudes in big horn rim glasses playing guitars and harmonizing like only matching chromosomes can make happen. In some respects, it immortalized the father-son duo of Tom and Ian Spanic. Even more hard to believe was that at the time the Spanic’s were an indie outfit with virtually no radio airplay. The duo did win some fans that night and got their career jumpstarted. With the release of the duo’s eighth album called Sunshine, one of Milwaukee’s finest celebrate 20 years performing together. Everly-like in their tight harmonies combined with plenty of Fender-driven jangle & roll, Sunshine is a blissful blend of roots rock, psychedelia, Merseybeat and pop-a-billy guaranteed to perk ears. (Cinaps Records, P.O. Box 070146, Milwaukee, WI 53207, www.spanicboys.com)
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)