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No matter, Kim Richey doesn't get the message

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., August 19, 2013

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Kim Richey must not have gotten the message that you don't start your show by disposing of most of your well-known songs at the outset.

Richey, who's part Americana in the singer/songwriter vein and part country, started her solo acoustic gig with Just My Luck, These Words We Say and I Know as her first three offerings. Those songs were among her best known songs with the first two dating back to her self-titled debut some 18 years ago.

That left the listener (and there was a good chunk of them in a near full-house at this fine listening room) scratching the head wondering what else Richey could possibly have up her sleeve since those were the songs at least some of the folks came to hear.

The Ohio native, who just moved back to Nashville after three years in London (she offered afterwards that she could no longer afford to stay across the Pond), apparently has learned something along the way because she crafted one very strong, engaging evening of music.

Richey didn't exactly heavily promote her latest disc, "Thorn in My Heart," which came out in April on Yep Roc. She waited seven songs before playing Angels' Share from the CD. In fact, Richey only played two songs from the new release, including the title track.

As to the reason, who knows? It's not because the new music pales in comparison to the rest of her material.

What was constant throughout was her gorgeous voice, her calling card. Richey delivered pretty sounds with the beauty emphasized by her ability to hold notes with a bit of a quiver in her voice. Nothing has changed for Richey vocally throughout her career.

Coming across a tad off beat (Richey has that not quite put together look about her), the blonde-haired singer engaged the crowd with a few good, funny stories and a good wit, which went a long way in connecting with the audience.

The 80 minutes on stage was a most welcome reality to what was supposed to have been. Richey was slated to play the club on the Friday after the Boston Marathon bombing in April, but that show was postponed because it was lockdown Friday in the Boston area - meaning no one was allowed out of their house due to the massive police search for the culprits. Richey, fortunately, more than made up for that dark week.

In reality, Richey could not be accused of totally front loading her show because she sang Every River and I'm Alright near the end of her regular set.

No matter because it didn't seem to matter on this night whether the songs were well known or from her latest. Richey may have been around the musical block a time or two (she's on her fifth record label), but when armed with good songs and a voice that remains vibrant and lively as she approaches her mid-50s, it was all good.

New Yorker singer Emily Mure opened with a winning, engaging set during her half hour stint. Mure was making her Boston debut, but you certainly would not have known it based on her comfort with performing. The Ithaca College grad (she hung out with The Howlin' Brothers there) is blessed with a superb voice and a knack for writing songs with enough balance to maintain interest.

Mure knows a thing or two about composing songs and shows since she infused her material with just the right kick in her voice or playing (like Richey, she was solo acoustic) to keep the songs moving in the right direction. Performing with confidence, Mure proved a perfect table setter.