Nineteen years ago, back in those heady days when it was popular to learn what was on a celebrity's iPod playlist, Al Gore got some props for bringing Kim Richey's "Glimmer" to people's attention. That album cemented Richey's reputation as a singer-songwriter to be reckoned with. Since then Richey has been far from prolific, releasing only 4 albums, the last being 2013's "Thorn In My Heart." This is her strongest effort since "Glimmer."
Richey's combination of lyric detail and ability to create indelible melodic hooks drew many of us to her in the first place. This dozen-song album is just full of a sense of motion reflecting Richey's bent for world travel and her keening insights. "Red Line" brings the imagery of a missed train and moments of introspection in the station. "Chase Wild Horses" speaks both to newfound freedom and loss of idealistic youth with its gorgeous chorus and she immediately then seeks adventure in "Leaving Song' with Pat McLaughlin on harmony.
There are many co-writes with Maendo Sanz, Mike Henderson, Bill Deasy, Al Anderson, Jenny Queen, Harry Hoke, Chuck Prophet and McLaughlin. The latter two sing and play guitar and mandolin respectively. Produced by Brad Jones, other notable Nashville musicians include multi-instrumentalists Dug Dugmore, Jerry Roe, Pat Sansone, Doug Lancio and Dan Cohen. Chris Carmichael does the string arrangements, and Robyn Hitchcock plays guitar. Given the versatility of these musicians, the varying themes, melodic lines and imaginative chord changes, no two tracks feature the same instruments.
While the music remains upbeat throughout, you need to dig in deeper to reveal themes like the cycle of domestic abuse in "Pin a Rose" and the father she lost at two in "Not for Money or Love." The banjo-driven "High Time" and "Can't Let You Go" are quintessential Richey - her pristine alto carrying a lilting melody. On some songs, she takes a different point of view such as "Dear John," speaking as the guy working the barge on the Ohio River reluctant to read the letter that ends his romance. On "The Get Together," Richey duets and harmonizes beautifully with Saenz She closes, duetting with Prophet on the carefree, Everly-sounding "Whistle On Occasion." It's almost as if she's smiling at us - "I'm back, and I'm every bit as good as you remembered me." Richey is simply brilliant.