The Kelly Richey Band
Sweet Lucy -- KRB1136
I was first introduced to the Kelly Richey Band in the summer of 2006, when I heard this Cincinnati-based band at Indianapolis's noted blues club, the Slippery Noodle Inn. I was impressed with her vibrant, two-fisted guitar playing from the beginning, and complimented her by quoting what was said of Memphis Minnie: "She plays guitar like a man." This CD, Speechless, by her and her elemental band of only David Clawson on drums and Jimmy V on bass, only confirms and deepens my initial impression.
Although Richey is also a powerful vocalist, Speechless is all instrumentals. All-instrumental recordings can easily fall into two traps--they can either be relentlessly boring, or they can just become background music unable to hold the listener's attention. Speechless masterfully avoids both pitfalls. In fact, although it is 41 minutes and 18 seconds long, it is so engrossing that it always hold the listener's attention, and the listener easily forgets the length of time spent listening to it. Never once does it make the listener look anxiously at the clock.
Richey's guitar playing is overwhelmingly straight-ahead, with little electronic enhancement. Only two tracks rely much on such embellishment--the psychedelic "And I Sing," and the ending track, "If I Could Fly," with is use of the wah-wah pedal.
Further, Richey is adept at crossing and mixing many genres, partaking not only of blues, but also 1960s rock, R&B, and psychedelia, a vibrant combination. Her creativity lies here in incorporating evocations of Quicksilver Messenger Service; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; the Doors; and Carlos Santana into the blues. But it's not copying or cloning these evocations, for they remain only that. At bottom, the Kelly Richey Band sounds like--well, the Kelly Richey Band! Exactly as it should be.
Further, there's a nice mix of song lengths here, from short to long, with the shortest song two minutes and 30 seconds, and the longest seven minutes and 13 seconds, with a good range in-between. Noting to jar with excessive shortness, nor bore with excessive, interminable length.
The first two tracks, "One Day We'll Feel the Sun" and "Is There Any Reason," are the most Quicksilver-ish, with another dash of psychedelia (one of the most descriptive, and yet one of the most limiting, of 1960s catch-words) in the middle, the experimental, electronic "And I Sing," with its soft beginning building to crescendo at the end.
The last two, "Without a Trace" and "If I Could fly," are the most bluesy, with the opening melody/riff on "Without a Trace" switching to a riffing based on Junior Well's "Messin' With the Kid" in the middle before switching back to the original at the end. "If I Could Fly" has strong evocations of Carlos Santana intertwined with more traditional blues playing. The acoustic-electric "Only the Bird Knows" evokes Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, while the nearly six-minute "Climb to the Highest Mountain" seems most akin to the Doors playing blues-rock. "Stand Alone" is a nicely-done throwback to those great R&B instrumentals of the early 1960s in its masterful building around a simple bluesy riff, that same way done in the many knockout instrumentals of that era, such as the Mar-Key's "Last Night," Booker T. and the MG's "Green Onions" and Freddie King's "Hideaway." "The Longest Road" is not only lyrical without being schmaltzy, but, in its building from soft to louder, from gentle and soft to hard and insistent, lyrical with a biting, razor-sharp edge to it, lyrical with a pungent sting as well.
Altogether, these nine tracks, so different each from the other, all come together on Speechless as individual streams flowing into one river. There is an analogous jazz-like fluidity as well in the masterful way Richey intertwines her playing of the basic melodies with her playing off these melodies into lead work, a dynamic flowing of these parts seamlessly into one another the way jazz does. But it's not her show alone; not only has she built on a solid rhythm section in drummer David Clawson and bassist Jimmy V, but both also lend creative technical flashes to augment, enhance and drive Richey's playing at appropriate moments. In her versatility, creativity and mastery of her instrument, Kelly Richey brings to mind another masterful contemporary guitarist, New York City blues-rock artist Popa Chubby. And with Popa Chubby, who's openly a leftist, Kelly Richey demonstrates an affinity also, in the CD art on the back sleeve--a handprint with the peace sign prominently filling up the palm area.
Unfortunately, this essentially Kelly Richey-distributed small-label CD may be hard to find, but ordering info can be found on here website, www.kellyrichie.com. Well worth the web browse, for Speechless is indeed a CD that speaks boldly, dynamically and eloquently!
George Fish can be reached at .