Kim Richey (USA): Musical traveller and ‘roots singer/subtle excavator of the human condition’

Date/Time Sun 18 Nov 2018 7:45 PM

Price Online - £12 + £1.20 booking fee On The Door - £12

Website: http://kimrichey.com/


Kim Richey is a traveller, after all. Musically, physically, emotionally. Not merely restless or rootless, it’s who she is. Willing to follow where the music leads, she’s landed in Los Angeles, Nashville, London, working with a who’s who of producers – Richard Bennett, Hugh Padgham, Bill Bottrell, Angelo, Giles Martin. She’s attracted a coterie of top-shelf genre-definers — Jason Isbell, Trisha Yearwood, Chuck Prophet, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, Wilco’s Pat Sansone – for her critically-lauded projects. She has also sung on records for Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Isbell, and Rodney Crowell.

Part of what draws them to the dusky honey of her crystalline alto is the way she writes: to and from the soul, never flinching from the conflicts and crushing moments, yet always finding dignity and resilience. Her arc of the human heart is true. True enough that over the years, Richey’s been both Grammy nominated. Nominated for Yearwood’s truculently groove-country “Baby, I Lied,” she also co-wrote Radney Foster’s #1 “Nobody Wins.”

“Harlan Howard said – and maybe I’ve taken it too much to heart, ‘It’s always more believable if you sing it in the first person.’ And when I sit down to write, if it’s something I’m going to sing, I want it to be what I want it to be. I don’t really settle, which may make me a little hard to write with. But I have to be able to stand up and sing it night after night, and I can’t if I don’t really believe it.”

Those standards made Glimmer one of TIME’s Top Records of 1999 and Rise named People’s Best Alt-Country Record of 2002. Even when singing from the point of view of a guy working on a barge going up and down the Ohio River in “Dear John,” her aim is true. As she says of the man refusing to read the letter that ends his romance, “because if I don’t read your letter, then it’s not over. Sometimes these songs are specific and personal, but it’s also true in ways that reflect so many other people’s experience, too.”

Sometimes Richey channels profound truths. Sometimes she embraces breezy freedom. “Leavin’ Song,” a rambler’s shuffle, is more about tasting the world than exiting a bad situation. As its chorus offers, “This ain’t no leaving song, you ain’t done nothing wrong” over an elec a htric banjo and Resonator guitar, Richey finds the sweet spot in exulting for just being alive.

Once again, Richey has drawn a multitude of collaborators who rival her own singular voice. Veteran journeymen artist/writers Chuck Prophet, Maendo Sanz, Mike Henderson (Steeldrivers), Bill Deasy (the Gathering Field), Pat McLaughlin (John Prine) and Al Anderson (NRBQ), plus Aussies Jenny Queen and Harry Hokey co-sign on these musical polaroids from the going, the leaving, and the pausing.

“I’ll be doing an interview, and people will say, ‘You co-write a lot…’,” she marvels, “like it’s a bad thing. But it’s inspiring to me, and takes me in other directions, to other places. The people I write with are funny, and smart, and a blast to hang out with, but they’re also really good writers in their own right. Nobody’s pandering or chasing ‘a hit,’ we’re all just trying to get to the best possible song.”

Whether growing up, owning and relinquishing high times in the sleek “Chase Wild Horses,” echoed in the ether-lite, percussive folk “High Time,” then jettisoned on the smoky acceptance of her own flawed inability to be in a romance on the Western-tinged on “I Tried,” the woman from Ohio makes our natural selves both exotic and homey.