More People Really Should Know About: Kim Richey

Photo: Nick Barber

Kim Richey isn’t a shiny, new upcoming and promising artist for whom these features were perhaps intended. No, Richey is one of those unsung heroes of americana who have been around for a goodly while, releasing an album every few years without fanfare and sans huge critical acclaim but whose work within the industry, working with higher profile musicians, has earned huge respect amongst her peers.

Richey came late to the party; she was 37 when she signed her first record deal with PolyGram Records. “I think when you’re older, I had more of a sense of myself, and what I was and wasn’t willing to do to get a record deal,” she says. It may or may not be coincidental that Richey’s late entry into the music business just about mirrors her great friend and musical collaborator Gretchen Peters. Born a few months apart and with debut albums released at about the same time, Richey would go on to accompany Peters on many a tour, both as support act and then alongside Peters herself. Anyone who witnessed Gretchen’s recent farewell tour of the UK will have been fortunate to have witnessed just how good they were together.

Richey’s eponymously titled 1995 debut still sounds as fresh today as it ever did and stands comparison with everything that has come subsequently. Whilst contemporaries such as Peters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin achieved at least a degree of chart recognition for their work Richey has remained firmly in the background in that respect. There have been some notable critical high points, Time magazine placed ‘Glimmer’ in their Top 10 albums of 1999 for example, but her albums fly under the commercial radar in the main.

But as all Americana aficionados can testify, chart success or critical acclaim is no measure of an artist’s worth in this genre. Each subsequent Richey album, numbering seven to date, is a gem and can hold its own within her lifetime of work.

If the maturity of her songwriting skills is renowned throughout the Nashville community then Richey is equally as respected as a collaborator and contributor to many. 2018 release ‘Edgeland’ saw Chuck Prophet feature prominently. 2013 album ‘Thorn In My Heart’ reads like a who’s who – Neilson Hubbard, Trisha Yearwood, Jason Isbell feature on harmonies; Hubbard and Ben Glover contribute a co-write. Richey’s songs have been lapped up by the likes of Yearwood, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Loveless and Jim Lauderdale and she has returned the guest vocalist favour to Isbell, Shawn Colvin, Ryan Adams and Rodney Crowell amongst many.

In this shout out for a great and underappreciated artist there are two independent viewpoints that hopefully reinforce this message. In 2018 this website’s review of ‘Edgeland’ concluded with a summary that could have been applied to any of Richey’s work over the last 30 years or so.” This is an album of well written and stylishly presented songs. Skilled musicianship and a rich-toned voice have produced work of atmosphere and quality. It’s country music with a pop sensibility and a traditional backbone. A great listen and a great singer, singing her own songs.

And, from within the industry this from Ben Glover “Kim and I have been writing and singing together for a few years as we’re both based in Nashville. I’ve been a fan of hers since the first time I heard her sing on ‘Come Pick Me Up’ (Ryan Adams). She’s one of the best singers I’ve ever had the chance to work with.

The three songs here are a rapid career view ranging from the opening track on her 1995 debut, ‘A Place Called Home’ from 2002’s ‘Rise‘ and the marvellous ‘Chase Wild Horses’ from ‘Edgeland‘.


About Peter Churchill 180 Articles
Lover of intelligent singer-songwriters; a little bit country; a little bit folk; a little bit Americana. Devotee of the 'small is beautiful' school of thought when it comes to music venues.
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Viv Fish

She has a beautiful voice.
I love her duets with Jesse Terry on his 2018 album ‘Natural’.
The songs ‘I Was an Island’ and ‘Carry’ are well worth a listen to hear Kim Richey, whilst the rest of the album features a range of female artists (Liz Longley, Sarah Darling, Cary Ann Hearst, Dar Williams, Annie Clements and Erin Rae) making it a truly fabulous album from beginning to end!

Last edited 4 months ago by Viv Fish
Alan Peatfield

This touched a nerve when I saw this post. A goddess to me. I was lucky enough to pick up on her debut album back in’95 … and even luckier to have seen her live on numerous occasions over the years. Already got my tickets for her next tour in May. A voice to die for and a top talent as a songwriter for such as Rodney Foster, Jolene, Brooks & Dunn and many others. It was a magical moment when she responded to my request at a show to perform Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Thank you, thank you!