KIM RICHEY has had quite a career. Up to now, she's released five critically-acclaimed albums and can legitimately add Grammy nominations and a 'People Magazine' 'Alt. Country album of the year' award (for her LP 'Rise') to her impressive CV. It's the kind of resume most folk in Nashville would sell their soul or at least consider setting light to the Grand Ol' Opry for.
However, while Richey's sixth studio album finds the Ohio gal again recording in Nashville, 'Wreck Your Wheels' often pays only lip-service to Americana-based designs. Produced by long-time collaborator/ multi-instrumentalist Neilson Hubbard and recorded with her road band in tow, it's an easy-going, inclusive record that's often every bit at home putting its' feet up and having a cup of coffee with Aimee Mann or Neil Finn as any of Music City's heroes.
The opening title track gives you a pretty fair idea of the wares on display. It's a dreamy and chiming mid-paced confection which swings by with ease, caressed by Richey's clear and emotive voice. It's not especially demanding, but it has poise and grace in spades and it wins you over with nonchalance to spare.
The album pulls off similar successes with a clutch of likeable tracks such as 'Leaving 49' and 'For a While', which lobs a pinch of Country-Soul spice into the pot and finds Richey sympathetically helping a friend with the break-up of a relationship (“go ahead, it's alright/ the shadows will get longer, I promise you.”)
It's difficult to really pick a hole on any of these songs per se, but the downside of 'Wreck Your Wheels' is that it can also get a bit TOO downbeat and medium-paced. Certainly in the case of '99 Floors' and the Boo Hewerdine co-write 'Keys' it all lands a bit too close to the bland side of pleasant, while the soft-focus 'Careful How You Go' slips rather too easily into the background.
Ironically, it's when Richey draws water from the Countrified well that she really slakes your thirst. 'When The Circus Comes to Town' is built around firewater-breathing acoustic picking and weird, stomping beats and ends up becoming one of the best 'fairground' songs this side of Richard & Linda Thompson's 'Wall of Death'. 'In the Years to Come' is co-written with The Jayhawks' Mark Olsen and its' lyrical fatalism (“woke on Sunday knowing you would leave me after all”) lingers long, while the lovely, untarnished 'Once In Your Life' has an admirable infectiousness about it.
'Wreck Your Wheels' is an accomplished album for which the epithet 'well-crafted' fits like a glove. It's a steady listen by anyone's standards and it'll delight anyone who's already familiar with Kim Richey's oeuvre, but it won't do a lot for anyone who likes their Roots to walk on the wilder side.
Kim Richey official site
Lojinx Records online