Her songs had been recorded by a passel of huge country and gospel stars and she had received bushels full of enthusiastic reviews and responses, but even after her acclaimed previous effort, 1996's West Texas Heaven, the spotlight had largely bypassed Kimmie Rhodes despite a phenomenal songwriting talent frequently mentioned alongside such giants as fellow Texans Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Her fourth album of new material (and fifth overall) continues her streak of exquisite singer-songwriter albums, but it is also a work of significant personal and musical growth. Rich From the Journey is humble and full of gentle, hushed praise, a thankful album in the sense that Rhodes' lyrics sparkle with gratefulness and joy for life's many aesthetic beauties, the outward ones that we can see, but also the internal ones that we must search ourselves to find. The album is suffused with a sunny, spiritual calm that is soft and absorbent, like a foot sinking into the wet beach sands of an ocean. The production (by son Gabe) is so subtle that it initially seems almost nonexistent, but it is actually what gives the album its airy, dreamlike quality. The sound may seem more Laurel Canyon than Texas, but regardless of its sonic lineage, it is a ceaselessly absorbing work graced by songwriting of genuine revelation and insight. Rhodes' delicate melodies float across the album's dozen tracks like beautiful feathers, but each one sparks an emotional response that does anything but dissolve or flutter away. She writes songs that grow more substantive the longer they marinate in your head. Previously her songs had tended to be grounded in the country-folk tradition, but Rich from the Journey finds Rhodes moving toward a more expansive, inclusive, and less easily ghettoized sound. "Yellow Sand" even has a moody, almost ambient cast that approaches wistfully pretty Portishead and Sarah McLachlan territory, but with far more resonance, and a hint of country lilt. The album is, in a sense, a step away from the roots vibe that characterizes much of Rhodes' catalog, but there is still plenty of rural, Americana gems, such as the petal steel-imbued shuffle, "I'm So Amazed," and the outstanding "God's Acre," which features Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Rich from the Journey is an album at peace with itself, worldly but angelic, with a ringing sense of place.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart