Kim Richey

Bitter Sweet

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Kim Richey's second album avoids any sophomore slump and moves her toward a more pop-oriented sound than heard on her debut. The southern California sound of the late '70s looms large; the most obvious point of reference, both musically and thematically, is Karla Bonoff's self-titled first album, the one that Linda Ronstadt mined for her, Hasten Down the Wind. This means that on contemporary terms, Bitter Sweet falls somewhere between Rosanne Cash's country and Shawn Colvin's folk. Richey's songs are intimate examinations of romantic relationships between women and men, more often than not ones that have gone awry. But Richey sings even the most broken-hearted of the songs with a sense of optimism, and thus avoids sinking into maudlin self-pity. Best of all, Richey is a fine lyricist, capable of taking a cliché and twisting it or reinvesting everyday language with meaning. One such example is the single "I'm Alright," which starts with the throwaway line, "After all was said and done," followed by the abrupt, "There was nothing left to do." Throughout Bitter Sweet, Kim Richey makes it plain that she was one of the most gifted songwriters working out of Nashville in the late '90s.

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