Bill Kirchen & Austin de Lone open their collaborative album with "Hounds of the Bakersfield," a cheeky play on words with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective story, "The Hounds of the Baskervilles." But rather than looking for perpetrators of crime, Kirchen and de Lone walk in the footsteps of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and the other Bakersfield greats in search of Central California country music fame. Kirchen even shouts out to The Hag during the song by announcing, "Here comes another stranger." With just this one track, Kirchen and de Lone prove both their musical agility and keen grasp on country music history.
Kirchen and de Lone have long resumes of writing and recording music that ranges from country-rock to British pub rock, and "The Hounds of the Bakersfield" stretches from country criers, like "Wine, Wine, Wine," which Kirchen sings lead on, to more rollicking, Fats Domino-esque rockers, such as "No Need For Knocking" and "All Tore Up," featuring de Lone on lead vocals.
For the most part, this album is comprised of lighthearted - but rocking - love songs. However, Kirchen gets serious with "Back in the Day," which takes good hard look at the '60s and what all of its upheaval may or may not have accomplished. The album ends with "The Times They Are A-Changin'," one of that decade's most popular protest songs.
Kirchen sings "Oxblood" with the song's writer, and fellow troubadour, Butch Hancock. It's a chugging rocker, allowing Hancock to step out of his folk shoes and into something a little more blue suede-ish.
There is little that is unusual or unexpected on "Hounds of the Bakersfield." Nevertheless, both Kirchen and de Lone play to their musical strengths. And when it comes to musical strength, these two veterans have the muscles of Olympic weightlifters.