Kim Richey and Oh, Jeremiah
Edgeland moves roots singer/subtle excavator of the human condition Kim Richey through the topography of the life lived by a woman committed to following her music. Flinching over hurting another, knowing the ways of the road, seeking higher ground and accepting the fact everyones truth isnt a white picket fence, she continues defying labels as she defines the thinking persons life.
Right now, my stuff is all in storage, she says of her state of constant motion. Ive lived in a lot of different places different countries even. Its a little overwhelming, keeping track of stuff, but its been an amazing trip because music has taken me places I never dreamed.
Im the same way with writing. Even when Ive finished a record, or am in the middle of recording, Im writing. Writing songs is what I do; its how I connect with the world.
That sense of motion infuses Edgeland with immediacy. From the Buck Owens/Don Rich opening notes of Red Line, the dusky blond sweeps listeners up in her whirl. If Red Line is a missed train and a moment of immersion in the station, The Get Together shimmers with a Laurel Canyon lushness and ease in the awkward (that evokes J.D. Southers post-romantic midtempos) and Cant Seem To Let You Go owns the 60s Merseybeat pop luxury of the Seekers or Dusty Springfield in Memphis. Demonstrating a facility for slipping in and out of oeuvres and emotions, this in many ways culminates her passage through music.
Kim Richey is a traveller, after all. Musically, physically, emotionally. Not merely restless or rootless, its who she is. Willing to follow where the music leads, shes landed in Los Angeles, Nashville, London, working with a whos who of producers Richard Bennett, Hugh Padgham, Bill Bottrell, Angelo, Giles Martin. Shes attracted a coterie of top-shelf genre-definers Jason Isbell, Trisha Yearwood, Chuck Prophet, My Morning Jackets Carl Broemel, Wilcos 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, Richeys been both Grammy nominated. Nominated for Yearwoods truculently groove-country Baby, I Lied, she also co-wrote Radney Fosters #1 Nobody Wins.
Harlan Howard said and maybe Ive taken it too much to heart, Its always more believable if you sing it in the first person. And when I sit down to write, if its something Im going to sing, I want it to be what I want it to be. I dont 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 cant if I dont really believe it.
Those standards made Glimmer one of TIMEs Top Records of 1999 and Rise named Peoples 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 dont read your letter, then its not over. Sometimes these songs are specific and personal, but its also true in ways that reflect so many other peoples experience, too.
Sometimes Richey channels profound truths. Sometimes she embraces breezy freedom. Leavin Song, a ramblers shuffle, is more about tasting the world than exiting a bad situation. As its chorus offers, This aint no leaving song, you aint done nothing wrong over an electric 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.
Ill be doing an interview, and people will say, You co-write a lot, she marvels, like its a bad thing. But its 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 theyre also really good writers in their own right. Nobodys pandering or chasing a hit, were 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.
Richey enlisted producer Brad Jones, known for Over the Rhine, Josh Rouse, Butterfly Boucher, Hayes Carll and Marshall Crenshaw, in crafting an adult album that evokes and provokes musically. I wasnt sure at first if wed be a good combo because he has such strong opinions, and I do, too. But it was (laughter) the easiest record Ive ever made. He has really different ideas, and its nice to have somebody push you in a direction you might not have gone and have them respect your opinion, too. I really loved working with Brad.
With three different tracking bands, Edgeland is a whos who of Nashvilles roots players: beyond co-writers, steel player Dan Dugmore, drummer Jerry Roe, multi-instrumentalist Sansone, guitarist/various stringed thing players Doug Lancio and Dan Cohen, string arranger Chris Carmichael and Robin Hitchcock all contribute to the bewitchery.
So many of these guys produce and make records on their own, she marvels. Im open to collaboration, too. These songs wouldnt sound the way they do without these players.
The noir-slink of Pin A Rose, a cautionary told-you-so tale of domestic abuses repeat cycles, the neo-madrigal Not for Money or Love, inspired by the father Richey lost at 2, and the Mellotron-tinged austerity of Black Trees, finished after a few years gestation during a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts Colony and expanded to consider a refugees fortunes, all seek and explore. Here melody reinforces words, feelings, even interpersonal dynamics. Simplicity as executed breaks complicated things into evocative clouds that seep into the listeners unconscious.
Its a lot easier to say something in a song than in a conversation, allows the easy-going grown-up. And its not all about me, but the people in the songs. Even the stuff you leave out says something, so youre creating on so many layers. And sometimes I dont know where it comes from, just some other place.
Listening to Whistle On Occasion, the Everly-esque closer duet with Prophet, Richey owns ones place in the world. Here, there, going or gone, thats all anyone can ask.
Dyson House Listening Room (View)
7575 Jefferson Hwy.
Baton Roiuge, LA 70809
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