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Kim Richey at Natasha's offers an antidote to Derby Eve hype

Kim Richey at Natasha's offers an antidote to Derby Eve hype

Contributing Music WriterMay 3, 2012 

Kim Richey's visits to Lexington date to shows at Lynagh's Music Club in the mid-'90s.


    Leon Russell at Buster's: "Well, bless his heart," a female fan said after Leon Russell opened this spirited 90-minute performance with Delta Lady and Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms.

    Bless him, indeed. The career renaissance Russell is experiencing at age 70 is a welcome but unexpected pop music occurrence. To celebrate the resurgence, Russell stuck to the familiar: tunes steeped in vintage piano blues and boogie-woogie along with a churchy brand of Okie-bred R&B. And the youthful bravado that fueled such a primitive Americana soul sound during the early '70s has long been a thing of the past, but Russell was full of considerably more fire during this performance than he was at club appearances from recent decades.

    The program was organized more as a career retrospective than a recitation of hits — so much so that roughly one-third of the set list was devoted to covers associated with the artists Russell has encountered, including bluesmen B.B. King and Ivory Joe Hunter, and folk/country pioneers Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons. Of particular interest was a revivalistic cover of the Rolling Stones' Wild Horses, a tune suggested by Parsons years before Russell recorded it on his underrated album Stop All That Jazz in 1974.

    Other welcome interpretations included a countrified take on The Beatles' I've Just Seen a Face, based on the 1981 bluegrass arrangement Russell cut with New Grass Revival, and the Stones classic Jumpin' Jack Flash. The latter has settled considerably since Russell lit a match to it for George Harrison's The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, although it sounded properly righteous this night.

    One could argue that Russell should have played more of his own fine songs, even though music from all of his classic Shelter albums cut from 1970 to 1975 was featured. And it was especially curious that the 2010 collaboration with Elton John (The Union), the record that triggered his career comeback, was ignored. But to hear Russell fortify Dylan's A Hard Rain's-a-Gonna Fall with a tough-as-oak piano blues sound reasserted his ability to make most any song within his grasp very much his own.

Kim Richey, Jason Tyler Burton

9 p.m. May 4 at Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade. $15. (859) 259-2754.

Do you have plans for something a little less confrontational, a little less boisterous for Derby Eve? If so, here is the show for you.

Performing at Natasha's on Friday night will be Kim Richey, a strikingly literate and honestly emotive Americana singer-songwriter. The Grammy- nominated, Ohio-bred Richey, who was a schoolteacher before devoting her working life to music, has forged a Lexington fan base for some time.

Her first local appearances date to the days of the defunct Lynagh's Music Club and coincided with the release of her self-titled debut album in 1995. Since then, she has recorded with Ryan Adams and Shawn Colvin; her songs have been cut by Trisha Yearwood and Maura O'Connell; and her music has been featured on TV, in episodes of Dawson's Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Along the way, Richey's recordings have shed numerous stylistic skins. Her debut album fell somewhere between radio-friendly commercial country and an alt-country movement that was gaining momentum during the mid-'90s.

Since then, some albums took a more pointed pop path (1996's Bitter Sweet) while others became massive critical hits (1999's Glimmer). Richey's newest work is 2010's Wreck Your Wheels. It's a sleeker, introspective work that is the best recorded example to date of her wonderfully descriptive singing, which at times recalls another popular pal with whom Richey has clocked recording studio time: Mary Chapin Carpenter.

The title track to Wreck Your Wheels is especially reminiscent of Carpenter's warm, settled introspection. But the song possesses a beat and edge that give it a very distinctive rhythmic stamp.

Other highlights on Wreck Your Wheels include the dark, loose blues groove that percolates in Circus; the plaintive waltz that dances about in 99 Floors; the hushed shuffle that enhances the everyday but worldly imagery of Keys; and the record's most country-conscious work, Leaving.

Not up for the glitz of a formal Derby Eve party or the ear-crunching charge of Friday's Staind/Godsmack smackdown at Rupp Arena? Then Richey's reserved country meditations should prove a comfortable and inviting fit.

The Old 97s, Sam Roberts Band, The County Line

8 p.m. May 4 at Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Rd., Louisville.$18. (502) 584-8088.

So you have decided that you simply have to be in Louisville on Friday night regardless of whether you're headed to the Derby on Saturday. If so, the city's primo Derby Eve bash comes to us courtesy of some longtime Texas pals.

About the time Richey made her first Lynagh's appearances, one could also catch some of the first regional shows by the Dallas brigade known as The Old 97s. Steeped in the immediacy of cowpunk but versed in multiple generations of pop, the band was a barroom delight, with singer Rhett Miller performing like a cross between Buddy Holly and David Byrne.

Since then, there have been flashes of crossover popularity and a parallel solo career by Miller. But on a series of albums for the New West label, the most recent being the fine The Grand Theatre: Volume Two, The Old 97s' vast pop vocabulary and the electric immediacy that comes to a head during live shows continue to thrive.

Longtime fans need to check out the media page of the band's Web site (, though. It offers a free download of a 1996 concert record at Cicero's in St. Louis that showcases exactly what made these Dallas pop upstarts so much fun to begin with.

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