(This Show is Seated)
Edgeland moves roots singer/subtle excavator of the human condition Kim Richey through the topography of the life lived by a woman committed to following her music. Flinching over hurting another, knowing the ways of the road, seeking higher ground and accepting the fact everyone’s truth isn’t a white picket fence, she continues defying labels as she defines the thinking person’s life.
“Right now, my stuff is all in storage,” she says of her state of constant motion. “I’ve lived in a lot of different places – different countries even. It’s a little overwhelming, keeping track of stuff, but it’s been an amazing trip because music has taken me places I never dreamed.
“I’m the same way with writing. Even when I’ve finished a record, or am in the middle of recording, I’m writing. Writing songs is what I do; it’s how I connect with the world.”
That sense of motion infuses Edgeland with immediacy. From the Buck Owens/Don Rich opening notes of “Red Line,” the dusky blond sweeps listeners up in her whirl. If “Red Line” is a missed train and a moment of immersion in the station, “The Get Together” shimmers with a Laurel Canyon lushness and ease in the awkward (that evokes J.D. Souther’s post-romantic midtempos) and “Can’t Seem To Let You Go” owns the ‘60s Merseybeat pop luxury of the Seekers or Dusty Springfield in Memphis. Demonstrating a facility for slipping in and out of oeuvres and emotions, this – in many ways — culminates her passage through music.
Kim Richey is a traveller, after all. Musically, physically, emotionally. Not merely restless or rootless, it’s who she is. Willing to follow where the music leads, she’s landed in Los Angeles, Nashville, London, working with a who’s who of producers – Richard Bennett, Hugh Padgham, Bill Bottrell, Angelo, Giles Martin. She’s attracted a coterie of top-shelf genre-definers — Jason Isbell, Trisha Yearwood, Chuck Prophet, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, Wilco’s Pat Sansone – for her critically-lauded projects. She has also sung on records for Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Isbell, and Rodney Crowell.
Part of what draws them to the dusky honey of her crystalline alto is the way she writes: to and from the soul, never flinching from the conflicts and crushing moments, yet always finding dignity and resilience. Her arc of the human heart is true. True enough that over the years, Richey’s been both Grammy nominated. Nominated for Yearwood’s truculently groove-country “Baby, I Lied,” she also co-wrote Radney Foster’s #1 “Nobody Wins.”
“Harlan Howard said – and maybe I’ve taken it too much to heart, ‘It’s always more believable if you sing it in the first person.’ And when I sit down to write, if it’s something I’m going to sing, I want it to be what I want it to be. I don’t really settle, which may make me a little hard to write with. But I have to be able to stand up and sing it night after night, and I can’t if I don’t really believe it.”
Those standards made Glimmer one of TIME’s Top Records of 1999 and Rise named People’s Best Alt-Country Record of 2002. Even when singing from the point of view of a guy working on a barge going up and down the Ohio River in “Dear John,” her aim is true. As she says of the man refusing to read the letter that ends his romance, “because if I don’t read your letter, then it’s not over. Sometimes these songs are specific and personal, but it’s also true in ways that reflect so many other people’s experience, too.”
Sometimes Richey channels profound truths. Sometimes she embraces breezy freedom. “Leavin’ Song,” a rambler’s shuffle, is more about tasting the world than exiting a bad situation. As its chorus offers, “This ain’t no leaving song, you ain’t done nothing wrong” over an electric banjo and Resonator guitar, Richey finds the sweet spot in exulting for just being alive.