Tuesday , February 27 2024
Kim Richey

Music Review: Kim Richey – ‘Edgeland’

There’s a feeling of fine control you get when you listen to a Kim Richey album. Her arrangements are pure country-and-americana. Her songs dig outward in two directions from there, into both folk and pop. And her silvery vocals, burnished with a constant, cool vibrato, lack twangy affectation, sounding almost weirdly non-manipulative – to paradoxically emotional effect.

Richey’s new album Edgeland adheres to this modus operandi, while sponging up creative energy from the contributions of several co-writers, notably Mando Saenz and Yep Roc Records labelmate Chuck Prophet.

The opening track “The Red Line” sets the tone, a sigh of ennui and indecision by Richey and Saenz that opens with a few uncertainly plucked notes and settles into a squared-off rhythm and a smoky plaint: “The conductor gave the signal but I’d left it for too late / I meant to buy a ticket – I meant to make the call / Guess I’ll smoke another cigarette and lean against the wall / And watch the world go by.” Not a position of strength! But decisiveness returns with the infectious gem “Chase Wild Horses,” even if it’s firmness about giving up an impossible dream: “I tried to race my demons down the longest mile / I ran my best but they ran better.”

The muted, almost blocky sound of “Pin a Rose,” co-written with Prophet and reinforced by his octave-below vocals, instantly worms its way into your emotional response center. Its haunting chorus resonates with anyone who’s watched helplessly as a friend makes terrible choices. I’ve found myself listening to it repeatedly.

Kim Richey Edgeland“High Time” with its lullaby ease and “The Get Together,” both co-written with Saenz, tread close to the treacherous cliff of over-simplicity – appropriately on an album called Edgeland – but in the end make softly distinctive statements, harmonies rising into the ether.

The weird “Leaving Song” adds tooth-grinding spice, with Everly Brothers-style harmonies (Richey joined by Pat McLaughlin, who co-wrote the song along with NRBQ’s Al Anderson) floating over a sparse, rootsy bounce driven by Dan Cohen’s forceful electric banjo.

The riff-driven “Can’t Let You Go” is the closest thing here to country-rock, with guitar tracks contributed by Robyn Hitchcock, co-writer Prophet, and Doug Lancio, who has been a big part of John Hiatt’s ultra-rootsy late-period albums. But the catchy “I Tried” (co-written with Bill Deasy) leads into something of a let-down, as weaker, vaguer songs fill out the final third of the album.

There’s a folky, ear-pleasing miniature at the end, though, even if the lyrics of “Whistle on Occasion” don’t make much sense. Melody, harmony, and pure musicianship have a pleasing semantics of their own. Kim Richey and her collaborators tap into it deeply on Edgeland, which comes out March 30 on Yep Roc and is available for pre-order now.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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