Bill Kirchen

Free treasures always abound at the Minnesota State Fair, and we're not just talkin' about those ubiquitous rulers and conveniently defaceable McCain bumper stickers. One tucked away at the Heritage at Sundown stage this year is Telecaster guitar monster Bill Kirchen, whose high-octane romps with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen earned him a well-deserved crown as King of Dieselbilly. It was Kirchen's fat, rabidly twangy riffs that fueled the Airmen's now definitive version of Tex Ritter's "Hot Rod Lincoln" and a slew of other rootsy nuggets back in the early '70s. Kirchen is still a wicked Telecaster picker, and the title track to his last album, 2006's Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods (Proper American), is a scorching tribute to his favorite ax. On the rest of the accomplished disc Kirchen rummages through his rootsy interests—widely ranging from Western swing to blues—mixing strong, even literate originals and cool covers, such as a Motown-like version of "Devil with the Blue Dress" and Blackie Farrell's bluesy country lament "Skid Row in My Mind." Kirchen's rollicking "Working Man" even has a few choice lines to scrawl on that McCain sticker: "Now nine to five won't get it done/With your pension drained and a war to fund."
Wed., Aug. 27, 6:30 & 7:45 p.m., 2008

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