Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kelly Richey - Carry the Light

It is ironic that Kelly Richey’s new disc opens with the track “Leave the Blues Behind”, because this Cincinnati transplant clearly has no desire to do just that. With a band that echoes the Soul to Soul era Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kelly wastes no time staking a claim on her own brand of blues rock.

“I Want You” rocks an odd metered riff one measure before the drums build to a Bonham style back beat: I want you/ to give me/ the right to live/ and be free. Her musical territory isn’t far off from the hallowed grounds of the electric ladyland, and coming out the main riff, a breathy “guitar!” intros a Hendrix style guitar solo when he was in his less stoned days. As concerned with being free as the lyrics are, the main riff holds us captive, building the tension inside the song so that the chorus and break can let us go a bar or two, before mesmerizing us again.

If many blues singers want the stay in the simple “I woke up this morning, and found my baby done left me” mode, Kelley’s lyrical concerns and playing are of a completely different caliber. Opening the CD with “Leave”, she confronts unemployment, drugs and the dissolution of family life: Daddy needs a job/ about to give up trying/ there’s money on the street / if you’re not afraid of dyin’ Casting her eye around the urban landscape of 2009, the concerns perhaps aren’t all that different from the blues of 1950’s. The snappy phrasing of her solo paraphrases some of Lonnie Mack’s best playing.

“Carry the Light” almost sounds like a rehearsal, with a random bit of guitar tuning before Kelley cranks into a sharp riff that rolls and snakes with some beautiful octave jumps. Like a snake it slithers and whips around, and is fluid enough to carry the song on its non-existent back but turn into any number of fills between the vocals. It’s the strongest guitar playing on an album of great guitar playing and reminds me of Stevie Ray Vaughn when his playing was such a direct extension of his singing that there was little seam between the two. Small wonder it’s the title track of the CD, “Carry the Light” is a sweet gem of electric blues.

“What In The World”, a delicate ballad that never flounders in its languid pace, in part because of the sensitive drumming of Shane Frye, but also in the beautiful echo-drenched legato guitar of Richey that wraps the song, from beginning to end, from front to back in gorgeous sweet blues. Another ballad, “Angela’s Song” relies more heavily on the acoustic guitar and gospel tinged keyboard playing and backup singing than on the Stratocaster for its emotional weight.

In straight up rocking mode, “Run Like Hell” would befit AC/DC more than Albert King, but unlike your average rock band, Kelly knows when the keep the riff fluid, and gives us an abbreviated middle solo and longer outro solo more worthy of Ace Frehley than Albert Collins. “No More Lies” opens with a bit of guitar that might remind some of “Unskinny Bop” by Poison if you can believe it, but it’s Kelly delivering a rocking statement about social lies that breaks down to a classic Duane Allman/Dickie Betts solo break that this Kentucky native has in her blood.

“Jericho Road” takes us back home to the quiet electric blues that Vaughn and others took out of the urban blues. On the Jericho road/ l lost my way/ far from home/ on a desert highway and, paired with her voice, her guitar sings with the arch, tight phrases that punctuate the lyrics. And I don’t know if I’ll be coming back home/cause I’m lost and coming on the Jericho Road and with it, the very essence of the blues is revealed. The power and hope for deliverance from the pain of the blues and the musical tools with which to make the plea: the voice, the guitar, the drums. “When All is Said and Done” walks the same ground as Vaughn’s “Things I Used to Do” with its own personal set of regrets: when all is said and done/ I don’t want to be the one/ who looks back on the things I should have done/ and the dreams that could have been/ if I only knew now what I knew then. The vocals resemble a Johnette Napolitano during Concrete Blonde’s glory days, and while she lets the strat cry a little in the solo, this song belongs to the vocal.

And the production needs to be complimented for not being too clean and sharp. They’ve left just enough of the rough edges to let us really Richey’s guitar (like the into to “Carry the Light”), Jimmy V’s bass and Frye’s drums in all their ambient glory. Not to say that it’s not professionally recorded, but more that Richey and Rick Brantley achieved the delicate balance of cleaning up the work without sacrificing the inherent power of the performances. Nicely done. It’ll be difficult to leave the blues behind when, yet again, played this well they become seductive yet again.

- the fearless rock iguana

Buy here: Buy the CD

1 comment:

Woody said...

I have to check this out. Anyone that gets compared to Lonnie Mack is worth a listen.

Don't be jealous because I own a Gibson Lonnie Mack Flying V. Wham!

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