Wednesday, 20 June 2018

GIG REVIEW: Kim Richey - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 19th June 2018

Early into her first set, Kim Richey commented that the configuration of the Kitchen Garden partially reflected the world famous Bluebird Café in Nashville. This was apt to the extent that seeing her play that iconic venue back in 2016 re-ignited an immense appreciation for such a measured and accomplished talent. In contrast to an evening where the limelight was shared with fellow songwriters Matraca Berg, Don Henry and Bill Lloyd, Kim reverted to her de facto solo touring mode and injected a stark reminder of the many fine songs to have surfaced from her deep creative well over the years.

2018 is shaping up to be a significant year for this artist originally hailing from Ohio, but more than making a mark a couple of states further south where the good and great in music gather. EDGELAND, her first studio album in five years, has accrued heaps of attentive praise since emerging in the spring on the Yep Roc label and a raft of dates supporting Gretchen Peters in the UK has seen a re-raising of her profile across the pond. A few extra well-attended solo dates have been tagged onto this trip and we learned on the evening that a return in the autumn is planned as well.

For this Birmingham show, a city that has hosted Kim on numerous occasions in the past including the recent Town Hall Gretchen gig, the standard twin forty-five minute set rolled out. While this was probably the minimum requirement in length, the substantial standard of the songs and performance on display far outweighed the modest outlay.

Similarly to many artists witnessed, Kim grew gradually into her role, while perfecting the vocal tones to match the casually strummed guitar. The background chat and informative stories were restrained into optimum territory leaving sufficient breathing space for the song structures to be savoured. It was easy to compare the new material against its more established siblings, and you can comfortably imagine ‘Pin a Rose’ and ‘Chase Wild Horses’ being as loved as ‘Those Words We Said’ and ‘I’m Alright’ in years to come.

While these songs currently represent the cream at the bookends of the Kim Richey career timeline, the set list this evening also picked out a handful of gems from the interim years. ‘Chinese Boxes’, ‘Wreck Your Wheels’ and ‘Thorn in My Heart’ are far much more than album title tracks and sounded as good as ever on the night. The latter assumed the role of show opener ensuring the audience quickly found that captivating zone.

It may sound slightly ingenuous to proclaim a cover as the highlight to a singer-songwriter’s show, but this exception is tough to dispute. Before closing the show, Kim spoke about her Opry debut many years ago, and how she tentatively selected a cover as her third song choice. While hearing Kris Kristofferson sing ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ live a few years ago was a moving moment, there has admittedly been far superior vocally delivered versions of this timeless classic. Add Kim Richey to this lengthy list now after experiencing the intensity and focus she gave it for three minutes of bliss to close the evening on a high.

Scanning back over the thirty years of Kim Richey’s career reveals an artist held in the upmost esteem by both industry insiders and fans with an acute ear to the quality song. Whether serving up songs for the big hitters in her formative Nashville years or carving out a performing niche spanning far from the confines of Music City, a rewarding career has ensued; one with plenty more fuel in the tank on the evidence of the current record. Periodically, UK fans have been blessed with these songs in their unfiltered transparent state and this evening’s show at the Kitchen Garden staged the latest renewal in a fitting way.