First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2007, Volume 14, #7
Written by John Metzger
Thu July 12, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Despite the strength of her 2002 effort Rise, Kim Richey remains one of Nashville’s best kept secrets, though that likely will change once her latest endeavor Chinese Boxes hits the airwaves — assuming, that is, that closed-minded, corporate-driven radio stations have any clue what to do with it. Overflowing with immediately ingratiating melodies, Chinese Boxes continues to foster Richey’s shift away from the coffeehouse folk and contemporary country of her early work. Although Rise provided plenty of indications about the direction in which she was headed — most notably via the Middle Eastern headiness of No Judges as well as her collaboration with Pete Droge on Electric Green — her new set feels more like a bold new beginning than it does an extension of her past.
To help her to complete her transition, Richey tapped Giles Martin — the son of Beatles’ architect George Martin — to produce Chinese Boxes, and the move proves to have been quite wise. Throughout the effort, Martin pushes her material well beyond its roots-y birth by enveloping the collection in a glistening, pop-oriented sheen without ever losing sight of the organic essence of her compositions. Opening cut Jack and Jill contains McCartney-esque overtones, while the title track sounds like Liz Phair covering Blonde on Blonde-era Bob Dylan. Fans of Richey’s softer side likely will gravitate toward the quiet beauty of Drift, a touching love song that she co-wrote with up-and-coming label-mate Mindy Smith. Nevertheless, the true indicators of how perfectly the visions of Richey and Martin mesh can be found within the twinkling guitars that dot the landscape of Turn Me as well as the subtly weeping Mellotron that glides gently through Something to Say. By the time she launches into the full-fledged charge of Not a Love Like This, it’s clear that the confidence that Richey brought to Rise has blossomed fully within Chinese Boxes. Indeed, she very well may have a more promising future as a pop star than she ever did as a country artist. ½
Chinese Boxes is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box