Better known to some as a songwriter for bestselling country artists like Trisha Yearwood, Ohio-born Kim Richey has nevertheless, over the past fifteen years, carved out a solo career that shines a more personal spotlight on her Americana leanings. Sixth studio LP Wreck Your Wheels is the follow-up to 2007’s Chinese Boxes and finds Richey in mostly tranquil mood. The radio-friendly, simple instrumental textures and easygoing rhythms of the title track set the tone for the remainder of the album. It’s nice enough, but with its basic chord structure it simply fails to go anywhere, though the reverb-laden backing vocals at the song’s coda are an attractive touch.
‘Careful How You Go’ is a little more evocative, but again comes with a rather predictable structure. Richey’s voice is soft and soothing, but it’s not a voice that bowls one over with emotional intensity or power. Instead, it has a warm, honeyed quality perfect for these soft, midtempo songs. Richey sings with a bit more gusto on the toe-tapper ‘Leaving 49′, which has a little more energy but still retains the sun-drenched country-pop quality that’s stamped over most of the album. ‘For a While,’ meanwhile, has a lazy, bluesy vibe that adds a soulful edge to Richey’s country-pop musings, though her voice remains as smooth and grit-free as ever.
The wonderfully loose feel of ‘Circus’ echoes this same bluesy quality, complemented nicely by some rousing background vocals. Elsewhere, ‘Keys’ has a far more interesting chord progression and a more memorable, heartfelt vocal from Richey, plus some of the album’s best guitar work and an attractive, shifting rhythm. Another highlight comes with ’99 Floors’, its spacious arrangement and fantastic breathy vocals woven around an affecting melody. Among these more interesting songs, though, are fairly standard, forgettable country numbers like the nondescript ‘Once In Your Life’ and the overlong ‘Back To You’, where the crisp production strives to disguise a relatively unimpressive song at its core.
The album finishes strongly with the serene, acoustic ‘Word To The Wise’, but on the whole Wreck Your Wheels is not the kind of album to wow anyone. The production is clean, the writing decent if unremarkable, and the performances refined. Kim Richey fans have come to expect solid country-fused Americana records from her, and on that score this effort delivers.
[Lojinx; May 17, 2010]