Kim Richey would live up to her early promise because on her satisfying, self-titled debut and her excellent follow up, Bitter Sweet, Richey’s guitar based pop-rock and country songs were ear fulfilling experiences. Without pumping up the volume her songs packed enough punch to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, she didn’t continue down that enjoyable path. Instead, she became a singer-songwriter whose music gradually became more polished while losing her country-rock roots in the process. Her next three releases, Glimmer, Rise, and Chinese Boxes all had some very nice moments even if the albums did not reach the heights of her first two discs.
Richey’s songs on Wreck Your Wheels are all about coping, lost love, and unrequited love. This was true of her early CDs too but they were buoyed by brighter arrangements. But now, the singer, who is always in fine voice, seems to have lost the ability to write compelling melodies because these tunes are mostly indistinguishable from one another. The few that do leave a small lasting impression, "Leaving 49," the title track, and "When the Circus Comes to Town," lean a little more in the direction of her first two CDs but not enough to make Wheels a keeper. Richey also sang about the circus coming to town on Rise. It's another indication that she has run out of ideas.
I’ve seen Richey in concert three times and I enjoyed every performance. Her upbeat, onstage demeanor belies her often dour songs. I'm not against her lyrical content (there have been some wonderful songs written about the dark side of being in love) but the melancholy mood has to be tempered with a less brooding atmosphere more than once per album.