Appearing in the late nineties after a spate of female American country-pop singers had enjoyed some success in the UK (Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Aimee Mann for example), Kim Richey has never been more than a dot on even the most aware of British music fan's radar. Which is a shame. Blessed with a voice of superb tone and grace, Richey has a knack of combining great tunes and lyrics, in the way only US folk-country stars can do.
Wreck Your Wheels is her sixth album, and doesn't depart too greatly from 2007's Chinese Boxes, although she wanted a more rootsy sound and took her band back to Nashville for the recording. That is perhaps most audible on tracks like 'Keys', a quaint reflection on life using the metaphor of keys: "keys, they are with us all our lives, when we're young we're told to hide, it all comes down to keys."
But the taste of Americana is not too rich as too be off putting for the more casual listener. While there's nothing as commercial as that on the excellent 1999 album Glimmer, there are occasions when Richey lets the pop in. 'Leaving 49' has a superb trundling drum beat over sliding guitar and keyboard, while the more delicate 'Careful How You Go', has a gentle sway with a tune that gets into your head subconsciously.
The pick of the songs comes mid-way though, with the two-time Grammy-nominated star going slightly Norah Jones with the gorgeous 'For A While'. "Go ahead and treat yourself to a little something stronger" she invites, over a gentle acoustic twang, as she ruminates about distracting the subject from mournful reflections of lost love. The words and music capture such a delightful mood, that you're immediately picturing the scene, creating your own mini video.
On the downside, 'When The Circus Comes To Town' is a blues folk jumble that doesn't immediately work, while 'Back To You' is too long at five minutes, and it slows the pace too much at the end of the album.
However, there's a quality to the songwriting that will reward both listeners who like a tune and those that look for deeper reward in the stories (typified on 'In The Years To Come') and certainly for Richey fans there's plenty here to keep you company on those quiet summer evenings.