Sometimes it takes a couple of listenings before my mind catches up to the music. That was the way it was for me with Kelly Richey when I started listening to her recent album, SHAKEDOWN SOUL. Too many distractions took me away from the album and when I went back to hear it with fresh ears, I came away very impressed by her playing and her vocals.
Richey has a unique sound that comes from her power trio. Aside from Richey’s expressive guitar and gritty vocals (she has been compared to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Janis Joplin), she is joined by Rikk Manning on bass and Tobe “Tobotious” Donohue on drums, percussion, scratching, sequencing and other duties. They band is augmented on some tracks by Lee Carroll on keys; Robby Cosenza on drums and percussion; and Blake Cox on bass.
One thing about Richey is that she is not afraid to push boundaries. She finds ways to take her music into unexpected directions and the sound – while maybe not the blues that some purists may want to hear – is very much driven by experience and emotion. To ensure that she is being true to her own art, Richey has written or co-written every one of the ten songs on the album.
Richey kicks off the album with Fading and a nice strong guitar riff. Her vocals are exciting and expressive and the level of musicianship is quickly established. She has a take no prisoners attitude that I like – kind of if The Runaways played the blues.
She keeps the tempo turned up with You Wanna Rock, an anthem dedicated to those slight differences couples have. She tells her lover, “You wanna rock, I wanna roll.” All with some solid hard d riving licks and drum beats to push the point. Listen for her lead; trust me Richey can play with the best of them.
Lies kicks off with a Mark Knofler style guitar riff and her voice is evil and seductive at the same time. It’s the kind of sound that lures you in with a promise – even though you’ve already broken your promise to her. Great song with a haunting ending.
Things slow down slightly for the more introspective The Artist In Me. The rhythm section is still pounding, but Richey’s guitars are softened. Her vocals have reached down to the deepest parts of her soul and the effect is chilling.
Richey drives the next song, Love, with staccato guitar work but she amps up her vocals to emphasize her lyrics. This is not some mushy love song; this is a song with backbone. The reality of love, both the great parts, and some of the not so great parts as well.
Next up, Richey shines the spotlight on one of the most common fears human beings have, Afraid To Die. There is also a paralyzing fear that goes with it – being afraid of not really living. We go through the motions on a daily basis, but how many of us can release the shackles of leading a humdrum life. This is another good song that deserves a couple of repeats when you play the album.
There’s a bit of funk happening on Only Going Up with a solid bass and drums. Richey’s vocals are sometimes a little muddy behind the instruments, but the music itself is strong.
The band comes out rocking with Just Like A River, with a decent CCR vibe. Rivers are great metaphors in all forms of literature including poetry, prose, and the blues. Here she navigates the song well and with its catchy hook and lyrics, it’s a lot of fun.
Richey and company are still rocking with I Want To Run. This is a great song to get people out of their chairs and onto the dance floor. I would love to see the band do this one live, you know it’s got to be killer.
To end the album in a different direction, Richey shows her versatility by adding an acoustic version of the first song, Fading. Here’s a song for the traditionalists and her deep voice makes this song a stand out. She shows quiet power and her guitar work rings out nicely. It’s a great way to end the album, and I am ready to go find more.
Fortunately for me, and for the rest of us who have yet to discover Kelly Richey’s magic, more of her CDs can be found on her website, https://kellyrichey.com/. If you happen to have a hankering to take music lessons from her, there’s a place on the website to tell you how to do that as well.
I’m just going to check out where she’s playing, order a few CDs and kick back and listen to her again and let the world go away for awhile.