Sound — 7
A pioneer of rockabilly, Bill Kirchen is a guitarist known for a style marked "Dieselbilly". Though rock n' roll has taken a step back from the main stage, the Michigan songwriter still uses his combination of blues, country and western swing on Word To The Wise, a peculiar release with shades of a duet album your grandparents can do the boogie-woogie to. The hues of nostalgic twang shouldn't be overlooked as even though their roots lie in a culture manifested by the older generation, it has a modern appeal that's barely markeatable, but intriguing. "Man In The Bottom Of The Well" clinks the whiskey glasses of blues rock admirers while the funk-laced "Time Will Tell The Story" can comfort a lonely night in front of a glass of scotch. As the record drifts on, the appeal evaporates into a thin air comprised of aching ballads ("Husbands And Wives") and honky-tonk tales ("Open Range", Arkansas Diamond") that belong incased in a lifeless jukebox in the attic.
Lyrics — 8
A "Dieselbilly" at heart, Kirchen's quiet but passionate vocals keep the strings of the album together. His trademark comprehensive style adapts well with the ventures into various styles of music, displaying a talent that ressurects the talents of artists he's fond of such as Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Cream and even Jimi Hendrix. Place that next to guest appearances from Elvis Costello, Kevin "Blackie Farrell" and Maria Muldaur and you're left with a collection of tones that accent Word To The Wise's stories of blues and self-exploration. The greatest part is, Kirchen transforms the emotions from his guitar into words with such ease that it almost seems incomprehendable.
Overall Impression — 7
Bill Kirchen's talent is undeniable and filled with experience which produces a classic feel throughout the release, but its his vintage style that also turns down the volume on his impact on listeners. Clashing with similar artists with a dignified taste helps hit a high note but would sound remarkeably clearer with more mainstream artists, those along the lines of Rilo Kiley, Dan Auerbach and Conor Oberst. Maybe on his next release Kirchen will be able to throw together such a combination that goes down smooth without the bitter aftertaste.