AS EVIDENCED by this gig’s modest scale but capacity crowd, Ohio-born singer-songwriter Kim Richey has flown somewhat under the radar during most of her career, previously enjoying wider recognition as author of hits for the likes of Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless than as a performing artist.
* * * *
Over the course of seven albums since 1995, however, she has steadily built a loyal fan-base among critics, fellow musicians and the public either side of the pond, with many hailing this year’s Thorn In My Heart as her finest recording yet.
Working mainly out of Nashville, where she returned last year after a three-year sojourn in London, Richey has inclined variously towards country, folk and pop, arriving at a current rootsy blend of all the above; a rich, seamless synthesis most immediately reminiscent of Mary Chapin Carpenter. Richey’s mezzo vocals, though pitched a fraction higher, shared with Carpenter’s a similar interplay between bruised innocence and still-hopeful experience; a softly world-weary resilience which – together with a touch of lived-in hoarseness and her delicately floaty vibrato – proved a thoroughly alluring vehicle for melodically potent songs that zeroed in vividly on double-edged emotions and relationships.
The new album’s beautifully bittersweet title track was a prime case in point, as was the poignantly stripped-down break-up number Absence of Your Company and the half-imploring, half-remonstrative Wreck Your Wheels.
Angel’s Share combined a classic sorrows-drowning ballad with a deft metaphor for vanished romance, before Richey left us wanting more, with a hauntingly wistful cover of Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down.