Although actually a native of Buddy Holly's home town Lubbock, KIMMIE RHODES is a seasoned singer/ songwriter who has called Austin her home for the past fourteen years.
The creative highlights of the first ten of these years (1995 – 2005) are gathered together on 'Ten Summers': a self-explanatory, 14-song 'Best of' collection which is as good a point of entry as any to Ms. Rhodes' stellar career thus far.
And, while – like this writer – you may have had scant knowledge of her until relatively recently, there's no denying she's achieved some seismic stuff along the way. A quick glance at her CV reveals multi-platinum selling songs written for the revered likes of Willie Nelson, Joe Ely, Waylon Jennings, Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris, not to mention a total of 12 studio albums of her own and a concurrent career as a playwright and co-owner of her label Sunbird. A project she shares with her producer husband Joe Gracey.
It's enough to make most of us dizzy just reading it, yet thankfully quantity also stacks up with quality where 'Ten Summers' is concerned. With several heavyweight friends such as Willie Nelson, Emmy Lou Harris and the late Townes Van Zandt turning in impressive vocal contributions, it's a pristine collection and a great compendium for anyone on the lookout for the best quality roots-related songs around.
As always, Kimmie's voice tends to bring you up short. Her Marianne Faithfull-style looks suggest something smoky and lived-in will be coming your way, but the opening 'West Texas Heaven' soon reminds you that she sings with an unexpectedly childlike sense of wonder most reminiscent of Nanci Griffith. Once you get over the shock, though, and simply let the purity of her voice seep into your soul, then you're in for a treat.
Although steeped in the Texan troubadour tradition, Rhodes' music is rarely overtly Country-soaked. Sure, the pull of home and the great plains of the Lone Star state invest tunes like 'West Texas Heaven' and 'Big Ol' Train' with an intimate gravitas and she brings out the romantic in both Waylon Jennings and Townes Van Zandt on the aching ballads 'Maybe We'll Just Disappear' and 'I'm Gonna Fly', but mostly Rhodes' songs are simply beautifully crafted and designed to connect with anyone who loves a stirring, emotional chorus.
Of course it's hardly liable to count against you when you can call upon the likes of Willie Nelson to help out on a plaintive ballad like 'Love Me Like A Song' or Emmy Lou Harris for an acoustic beaut like 'Love & Happiness For You', but even when she's alone on songs like the deceptive 'I'm Not An Angel' or a quiet little gem like 'Windblown' she's as clear and refreshing as a mountain stream.
'Ten Summers', then, shows just how creatively fertile Kimmie Rhodes' first decade in Austin proved to be. Her recent album 'Walls Fall Down' suggests she's already been minting selections for the next ten, so let's hope she doesn't feel the need to leave the Austin city limits permanently in the future.