Bill Kirchen and Dallas Wayne

Record Review

Bill Kirchen

Tied to the Wheel (Hightone)

Dallas Wayne

Here I Am in Dallas (Hightone)

The Twangbangers Tour is making the rounds right about now, an old-fashioned package tour featuring Dallas Wayne, Bill Kirchen, and adopted Austinite Redd Volkaert burning up stages with Telecaster tone and honky-tonk twang-thang. Kirchen, former Commander Cody Lost Planet Airman, showcases his Tele prowess to good advantage on Tied to the Wheel, kicking off with "Truck Stop at the End of the World," a tale about 18 wheels rolling into the Apocalypse. Covers include the venerable "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" and a loose, rambling version of Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," but naturally, it's Kirchen's guitar work that's the centerpiece of the disc, especially on the instro "Poultry in Motion," with its percussive cotton-pickin' chicken-pickin' strangling the Tele within an inch of its life. "Roll Truck Roll" ought to be playing in a Waffle House jukebox; "Hillbilly Truck Drivin' Man" was co-written with local Clay Blaker and should be on the flip side of that single. Missouri native Dallas Wayne flew under the radar for years, plying his honky-tonk attitude in Europe 'til last year's Big Thinkin'(co-written with old bud Robbie Fulks) brought him a wider audience. Wayne is blessed with a boomy baritone that John Anderson should envy, and the tough Bakersfield twang of "Bouncin' Beer Cans Off the Jukebox" kicks the disc off with a bang. Chris Lawrence plays it simple-but-effective on guitar, often calling to mind Merle Haggard guitslinger Roy Nichols, and the whole band sounds like they could put down a case of Pabst and never miss a note. "Here I Am in Dallas" is a Faron Young cover that's given the Waylon Jennings treatment, while "The Stuff Inside" is a weeper about the life of the boozer. Fulks co-wrote "I Hit the Road (and the Road Hit Back)," the disc's kickin' closer, but unfortunately, his hand doesn't show throughout the effort as on Big Thinkin'. "Hillbilly Jitters" is a throwaway that doesn't work very well, and there are a couple of other songs that fall short of the mark. Still, with big (but not quite slick)-sounding production and Wayne's rumbling voice, this is stuff that by all rights should be on country radio. Why isn't it?! (The Twangbangers Tour barrels into the Continental Club Saturday, Sept. 29.)

(Kirchen) ***

(Wayne) ** .5

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Kirchen, Bill, Wayne, Dallas, Music Tied to the Wheel, Here I Am in Dallas

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