Now out on Red House Records, Transatlanticana showcases the talents of two unsung roots music heroes. The first sound you notice on the album is guitarist Bill Kirchen, formerly of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen—the awesome California country-rock group that perhaps most notably brought us their unforgettable cover of "Hot Rod Lincoln" (1972), among many other powerhouse musical moments. Kirchen sings lead vocals and plays some great Haggard-esque parts on the clever song "Hounds of the Bakersfield," which says a lot about this record.
Trading leads and licks on the album is the great keyboardist Austin de Lone, a former member of pub-rock icons Eggs Over Easy, which recently released a boxed set/career retrospective. EOE is credited with having brought their soulful twist on back-to-basics rock 'n' roll to English audiences, and inspiring the pub-rock movement that spawned a generation of great singer/songwriters and new wave stars. Kirchen and de Lone have enjoyed a long musical friendship, and this western blues/rock 'n' roll collaboration highlights their warmth and easiness together as well as their virtuosity. Their vocal harmonies are pretty natural and great, too.
The Transatlanticana title acknowledges that sessions took place on both sides of the Atlantic, in California, Texas, and London—so fitting when you consider the path that Americana music has taken, and how many British musicians have been inspired by these western sounds.
With the music industry being what it is right now, we're all lucky that wise, talented musicians like these are still working this hard to bring us heartfelt, authentic recordings, and that Kirchen and de Lone will tour this fall to promote their new album. As their record roll-out ramps up, de Lone took time to answer a few keys-centric questions about the making of Transatlanticana.
I understand that Transatlanticana was recorded partly in the US and partly in the UK. What type(s) of piano and organ did you used in each of the studios?
The piano I used in England at Specific Studios was a beautiful 5-foot Yamaha C-3 grand. It is an astonishingly good C-3, apparently due to the special attention of the piano tuner/technician, a chap named Ben Fairlight Edwards. Paul [Riley, who de Lone calls the session "engineer, bass, vocals and bon vivant"] assures me that without Ben’s superior work it would not be as fine a piano as it is. The organ sounds recorded there actually come from a Nord Electro 2, one of my favorite synth keyboards.
In Austin, at The Congress House Studio, the pianos i used were a 6-foot 1 Knabe grand and a 1936 Maynard upright grand—very funky! The organ was a Hammond B-3 with a 122 Leslie. For the overdubs recorded in Sausalito at Studio D Recording, the piano is a Yamaha C7E MIDI Grand; the organ a Hammond B-3 with 122 Leslie.
Am I correct in assuming that much of the music was recorded live, as a band?
Most of the music was recorded live, with some lead vocals, all background vocals, and some instruments overdubbed. Overdubbing was done at all three above-mentioned studios, as well as at M&P Studios in Austin, Texas.
What makes you and Bill Kirchen such a great duo?
Wow! What makes anything work? In our world, it’s musical empathy, love of the same music, matching sensibilities and humor, and, of course, magic! Bill and I have been playing together in many different combos for four decades, and never fail to have a great time and to spur each other to different heights, depths, and in between. Whether it was The Moonlighters, Commander Cody, The New Beatles, The FGs, Too Much Fun, or a million different side projects, we always enjoy playing together—and we hope you’ve enjoyed it too!