Kim Richey fortunately breaks the mold
Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., April 18
SOMERVILLE, MA - Early on, it became quite apparent that Kim RIchey would not be content to merely go for the tried-and-true.
Not only did Richey start the show before a packed house with a new song unknown to the crowd, she followed that up with one of her semi-hits from her debut, "Just My Luck." Most performers, particularly those in country, would leave their hits until the very end of the show, whetting the crowd's appetite along the way while making them jumpy for the hit.
But Richey isn't your typical country singer. For starters, her fine debut isn't exactly pure, straight-ahead country. There's more of the singer-songwriter tag, somewhat in the Mary-Chapin Carpenter vein.
And instead of playing all 13 songs from the album, the Ohio native played a slew of new songs from an upcoming CD, which could be out later this year. Offering new songs proved to be quite a challenge for Richey's hold on the crowd, testing them in unchartered territory.
That was no problem at all during the 100-minute show. Almost every new song proved to be a keeper. Highlights included "The Lonesome Side of Town" with a strong backing vocals and reverb here and there and "Main Distraction."
The songs are more in a country vein with more twang and country phrasing. Richey said after the show there was not a calculated effort to do so or pressure from the record company. That's just the direction in which she is heading.
No matter what she sang, Richey's strength is clearly her voice. She has wonderful range, timbre and expressiveness whether going full throttle (the very fine "Echoes of Love") or toning it down ("Just Like the Moon" during the encore where played solo acoustic until the band kicked in well into the song).
When she closes her eyes during songs, the listener doesn't get the feeling that she is milking the song for all it's worth. Richey often hangs out her words as well.
To boot, Richey, warm and friendly, possesses a keen sense of humor. "So, there's nothing on TV tonight?" she joked after a few songs. She later followed with funny, seemingly spontaneous stories.
Richey, who once briefly lived in Boston, relied on the area for three-quarters of her band. Angelo, who produces Richey's next album and wrote most of the songs with her for it, played guitar, while Billy Beard set a steady beat and Andrew Mazzone lent his talents on bass.
The real star, however, was guitarist Kenny Vaughan, who has toured extensively with Rodney Crowell. Not only did he offer a visual contrast with his brown suit, cream-colored cowboy hat and small-framed glasses, but he could play. Vaughan added smoke to song after song, not overplaying, just picking cleanly and clearly.
That was particularly true on the extended "That's Exactly What I Mean" where the guitars zoomed after the main part of the song concluded. Again, in a departure from the Nashville norm, Richey wasn't afraid to let her band play out and stretch out the songs.
Richey does not just fit into the Nashville mold, and that is a most welcome breath of fresh air for an artist whose career should be on the rise. Boston-based band Nola Rose & The Thorns opened the evening with a set strong on Nola's powerful voice of Nola Rose and some strong instrumentation, particularly from Tom Yates. The band, finishing off recording a CD, mixed up ballads and fast-paced country rockers in a strong outing.
This is a band to watch.