Kim Richey is, and probably always will be, one of my favorite female singer-songwriters. Richey's appeal lies with her ability to use her beautifully strong voice to easily communicate her equally strong melodies. In addition, her songs almost always feature a full band that help make all five of her CDs well arranged affairs. This is true whether the song is a rocker, a country tune, or a ballad. All of the producers who have worked with Richey seem to understand her completely including Giles Martin, who produced Chinese Boxes, her first CD after a five year absence. (Martin's very famous father, George, produced The Beatles).
Richey's first two discs, her self-titled debut and her masterwork, Bitter Sweet, are similar sounding upbeat country albums. Then, beginning with 1999's Glimmer, Richey began traveling the road of a singer-songwriter while steering herself away from country music. Each subsequent release has sounded entirely different from the one that proceeded it and that is a good thing. It shows her desire to be an artist, grow, and record what she loves. Could this be the reason she has never achieved the mass success she so richly deserves?
Throughout her career Richey has written very few songs without a collaborator and this is true again on Chinese Boxes. She composed with unknowns such as Katie Herzig on "Jack and Jill" and "I Will Follow," with the better known Mindy Smith on "Drift," and with the even more popular Joan Osborne on the rocking "Not A Love Like This."
Chinese Boxes is a good album from a very fine artist.
Also available is also a five song EP titled Little Record that has been sold independently and, in some cases, as a bonus disc with Chinese Boxes. It offers solo acoustic versions of the big record's title track and "Drift," new solo versions of two older songs, and a cover of Cake's "Mexico." As the full band arrangements of all of these songs are superior to the sparse versions found here the chief asset of Little Record is that it is a great showcase for Richey's voice.