Raise A Ruckus

Bill Kirchen

Hightone Records, 1999

http://www.billkirchen.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/13/1999

Try as he might, Bill Kirchen is no Alan Jackson.

While other artists have successfully merged the worlds of country and pop music together, Kirchen's latest disc Raise A Ruckus shows that even the best of intentions don't always go well.

Kirchen might not be a well-known name to some people, but he could be accurately be described as a new-wave country artist. While he still occasionally uses instruments like steel guitar and fiddle in the mix, he's less interested in maintaining the cowboy charisma than he is with putting out music that bridges several genres. (Obviously, other artists have had success with this strategy; Billy Ray Cyrus comes to mind.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And there are times on Raise A Ruckus where that strategy works well for Kirchen. "Girlfriend," the album's lead track - co-written with his wife Louise - is a wonderful track that tells of one man's desire to keep the passion of young love alive even as the number of anniversaries grows. (The accordion work of Flaco Jimenez on this track is exceptional, making me wish he had been featured more on this album.) The Kirchens take turns in front of the microphone on "True Love's The Treasure," another wonderful song; Louise Kirchen reminds me a bit of Katy Moffatt. Other tracks worth checking out include "Big Hat/No Cattle," "Little Bitty Record" and "Dreamworld".

The problem is that when Kirchen misses the mark on Raise A Ruckus, he misses it by a country mile. After the wonderful opening of "Girlfriend," "Fly On Your Jacket" comes across as a slap to the face of the listener. It's not as well-written of a track, and it's not as well executed; Kirchen sounds a bit lifeless on this one. Other tracks, like "She's A Yum Yum," just don't show themselves as being anything special to the listener, and are quickly forgettable.

It's not that Kirchen is new at this sort of thing; he has several albums to his credit. But where I think Raise A Ruckus goes wrong is that Kirchen doesn't rely nearly enough on the magic of his backing band, and tries to cast the spell with his own performances. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn't.

Raise A Ruckus is an okay country-pop album, but if it only had a little more of the magic that makes the exceptional tracks stand out, it would be something to get worked up about. As it stands, it's a "for the fans" disc.

Rating: C+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.