Allmusic’s Jana Pendragon credits Kirchen with being one of the musicians that pioneered the Americana movement in the 1980s, and also with being a founding father of “twangcore,” along with Dave Alvin, Wilco and Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Kirchen’s signature sound has been dubbed “dieselbilly” and incorporates elements of country, blues, rockabilly, Western swing and boogie-woogie, laced with themes of American truck driving music. Kirchen’s work in the early 1970s with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen helped set the stage for the singers like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and other outlaw country bands with his recordings of songs like “Seeds And Stems.” Kirchen is said to have “one of the most distinctive, pure-Fender Telecaster tone guitar sounds in modern music”.
Kirchen was named “The Titan of The Telecaster” by Guitar Player magazine for his musical prowess on the Fender Telecaster guitar. He played a 1959 model with a maple fretboard and sunburst finish that he calls the “coal burner” and acquired in 1967 when he exchanged his Gibson SG with a stranger on a bus. He retired that guitar in the early 2010s in favor of a Telecaster with a wider neck.