"Oh, man, he was just my man. I loved Don Rich. He was so kind of unique and tuneful, the way he approached the guitar. I guess he learned from Buck Owens. He started out with Buck as a fiddle player. I also consider Don Rich one of the greatest high harmony singers of all time, and those great Buck Owens albums where the harmony is mixed louder than the vocal, like 'Close Up The Honky Tonks,' which is a cool song. I got to meet Don before he died (1974), I got to meet him in Nashville and spent an evening hanging out with him - he was just the world's nicest guy."
The Texas portion of the current Too Much Fun tour is the end of September, and Kirchen sadly agrees that sometimes the dark side of the real world can overshadow the business of living and performing music. His voice grows quieter as he says he is fortunate that thus far, no friends or loved ones are reported missing or dead in the recent terror attacks, but he recalls their most recent gig in New York City and talks about a fire brigade captain who came to the show and bought every CD that was available. Kirchen spent a good deal of time talking with the fireman that evening and can't help but wonder if he was caught in the maelstrom of Sept. 11.
Although the album was released well before the 11th, the tragedy had a direct effect on it as well. The opening track is "Truck Stop At The End Of The World," a reprise of a song written by Kirchen and Frayne nearly 20 years ago, a fantasy about driving that 18-wheel Kenilworth down the last post-Apocalyptic stretch of four-lane amid a world laid ruin.
Though tongue-in-cheek, and written long ago, and though his own liner notes almost presciently speak of the song being "shaken loose from it's moorings by scary current events," Kirchen disclaims any Nostradamus-like talents and agrees that the lyrics are uncomfortable to listen to in the aftermath of the attacks.
"If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have done it...I don't even perform it at this point, because there's a humorous bent to that song, and the last thing I want to do at this point is make fun of something that's on people's minds...Just in respect for the tragedy there, we don't do that song now. Maybe later it will be appropriate, but it doesn't seem to be now."
Throughout his career, from the Cody days onward, Kirchen's music has always been difficult to pin a label down: part country, part blues, part rockabilly, part down-and-dirty, anything-goes, roadhouse-free-for-all and maybe now even a little bit bluegrass.
There's just too much out there to like and absorb to let himself be described by just one word - though "Dieselbilly" comes pretty damn close.
"I don't happen to let myself listen to a whole lot of country radio. I really don't listen to much radio, you know...it just appears to me that what's now called country music serves kind of a different niche than what was called country music when I got interested in it. It seems like when I was first attracted to it, it was more of a harder-edged, more adult-themed (music)...it just appears (now) as if it's speaking to someone other than me, which is fine, I got no beef with it. Of course, as with anything, I think there are wonderful, creative people in the field, there's always good stuff coming out. I'm not pessimistic, let's put it that way...I'm not one of these guys that says, 'Aaahh, country music's gone to hell'. I don't particularly like the mindless, sort of fake 'good old boy', 'party-rock' aspects of certain kinds of country music, but that doesn't mean that all of country music sucks."
He pauses for a moment and lets out a deep chuckle that grows into a full-throated laugh.
"And I'm sure there are people out there who have their beefs with what I'm up to. But you know, it's a big old beautiful world out there."