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CD Review 

by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

You always hear stories about the singer/songwriter who has to wait tables in Nashville while hoping for a shot at fame. It's almost a clich & eacute;, but in Kim Richey's case, it's true. An Ohio native who lived in Boston, Colorado, Sweden, South America and even Bellingham, Wash., she moved to Nashville in 1988. After a gig one night, a guy came up and said he liked her stuff and that he worked over at Mercury Records. Turned out he was Mercury Records -- it was Luke Lewis, the label's president. Richey's waitressing days were over.

Even though Richey has four albums out on Mercury and Lost Highway, chances are you still haven't heard of her. Maybe the release of The Collection will change all that. Usually you don't see greatest hits collections after just four records, but putting it out so soon might help introduce her to new fans, since she has struggled to get radio airplay. The CD runs in chronological order, so you can hear her progression. The early stuff has a certain twang to it, but as the years pass, you hear it less and less. Like a lot of singer/songwriters, she's kinda country, but she doesn't fit neatly into any category. It's the same problem faced by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, the Indigo Girls and Gillian Welch.

Her songs have the kinds of pop hooks that have made her a favorite songwriter in Nashville. Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood have recorded her songs. The best stuff here is from her second CD, 1997's Bitter Sweet. "Straight as the Crow Flies" showcases her vocal range and her knack for adding a choice instrument or two to give a song a special stamp (in this case, an organ and a banjo). Another highlight is "A Place Called Home," which is one of the great meditations of a musician's life on the road. And "I Know" is a feminist anthem with a sense of humor: "I should fix the lock, feed the cat, take the clothes to the laundromat, pay some bills and get a clue, get up and forget about you." If there was a radio format for the Kim Richeys of the world, this would have been a No. 1 hit. But there aren't. You just have to be lucky enough to stumble onto this kind of thing. So here you go.

Publication date: 06/24/04
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