Black Music Matters Festival

Kim Richey

Chinese Boxes – 2007 (Vanguard)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Kim Richey

Once upon a time, Kim Richey smartly combined rock chick instincts with country roots. And she was irresistible. Not to suggest Richey is no longer irresistible, but "Chinese Boxes" doesn't sound at all like the Richey of old. Instead, she's nearly a dead ringer for the soft and melodic Aimee Mann.

Recording this disc at Eastcote Studios in West London might have something to do with its distinctly un-Americana sound. But the related fact that Giles Martin (son of George Martin, The Beatles' famous producer) was her producer is likely the primary contributing climate change factor.

Lyrically, Richey gets into the mystic instead of writing about the dreary realities of everyday life. The title track, for example, speaks about an inability to comprehend a man in her life. Over a rumbling, acoustic folk-rock arrangement, this mystery man is invariably described as "smoke and mirrors," "all four seasons," and a Chinese box - "one inside the other/Inside the other." Although Richey co-wrote "Drift" with country girl, Mindy Smith, there is no recognizable country music contained within.

Usually, when country singers go pop, there is the temptation to shout "Traitor!" But Richey has given us such a likeably sophisticated pop offering that ain't country, but it ain't bad, either.