My main memory of Farm Aid 1990, held in Indianapolis, is of one singular performance. An all female quartet, calling themselves “Stealin’ Horses”, took the stage. The band was from Lexington, KY, and I had never heard of them before, but that wasn’t surprising since they only had one album out at the time. They performed a couple of songs, and it was clear that they were talented, and possibly destined for bigger things.
Then the lead guitar player stepped forward and played a note by note copy of Jimi Hendrix’s famous rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner that defined his guitar mastery and put the final punctuation on 1969′s Woodstock Festival. It’s twenty two years and I still remember the feeling of the event. One of my clearest musical remembrances from a lifetime of being a music fan.
It was only later that I found out the name of that masterful guitarist. Her name was Kelly Richey, and two years after her appearance at that Farm Aid concert, she hit the road with her own power trio, The Kelly Richey Band. She has since logged nearly a million miles of travel, played bars, clubs, festivals, arenas, and almost anywhere that people wanted to hear some ass-kicking, rousing blues and rock. And she never disappoints those who turn out to see and hear her.
Kelly has been described as, “Stevie Ray Vaughan in a woman’s body with Janis Joplin screaming to get out.” And for good reason. She is not only a guitar virtuoso on a par with Vaughan, Hendrix, and others, but she is also a great, evocative and emotive vocalist.
I have several CDs of The Kelly Richie Band in my collection, and they are among my most listened to discs over the years. Among the work on those discs are some hard edged blues, some original songs written by Kelly, cover songs from other writers, some rock and roll, and now and then a softer, more reflective song that can take your breath away.
Now with the release of her newest CD, titled, “Finding My Way Home”, a solo acoustic fare without the band, she gives us some replays of some of her best original material. That voice, slowed and softened, sometimes whispering, sometimes soaring, accompanied only with an acoustic guitar.
While many of her previous CDs made my list of best releases of the year from one to another, this one makes my list as one of the best CDs ever. Maybe it’s the fact that Kelly is looking back on her life and her career from a place where she’s nearing fifty years old, and realizes that sometimes softness can show strength and mellowness can allow us to reflect and recharge. And thank goodness, she shares these glimpses into her life with us.
“Finding My way Back Home” is a very special CD that highlights Richey’s voice and musical expression, at once strong and soft. Redefining herself and her music at this juncture in time and her life, Richey has found a new voice that we can only hope she will explore further for those of us who love what she does.
To give you an idea of the duality of Kelly Richie’s talents described here, I have a video of her performing “Hey Joe,” made famous by Jimi Hendrix, that aptly shows her guitar-shredding ability. There’s also a video from “Finding My Way Back Home,” called “Wandering.”