Album Review

Kim Richey - Chinese Boxes

Kim Richey - Chinese Boxes

Kim Richey's entrancing 2002 album Rise was one of the most striking makeovers in the annals of Nashville singers and songwriters going pop. Though Richey had written hits for artists such as Trisha Yearwood, she was hardly in the country mainstream as an artist in her own right. Still, there was nothing to prepare us for this bluesily meditative, remarkably poised song cycle. Chinese Boxes, her long-awaited follow-up, boasts a number of smart, wistful love songs in much the same vein. "Drift", written with Mindy Smith, is a great vehicle for Richey's lovely, clear-toned voice, which is a throb or two away from Karen Carpenter comparisons. But recorded in London, with Sir George Martin's son Giles producing (fresh off the Martins' work on the Beatles' Love soundtrack), Chinese Boxes is a brighter, warmer, catchier effort than its predecessor. No one does daydreamy better than Richey, whose visions are enhanced by a panoply of gentle and pronounced instrumental touches: horn accents, flutes and whistling, twanging guitars...and when was the last time you heard a cut with mellotron and mandolin? Having demonstrated her ease with Beatlesque touches on her 1995 self-titled debut, Richey is right at home on their home turf. There's no missing the playful ambiguity of her sensuous telling of "Jack And Jill" -- was the couple "high up on a hill" or "high, up on a hill"? Chinese Boxes clocks in at just 33 minutes, but there isn't a single song that doesn't hit home.