Kelly Richey

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Speechless Review

by Jeff Tamarkin

Occasionally, on the Kelly Richey Band's all-instrumental album Speechless (get it? So have Albert Lee, Bruce Cockburn, and many other artists making vocal-free recordings.), sparks fly and you want to believe. This happens on "The Longest Road," on which blues-rock guitarist Richey's soaring, melodic lead lines escalate, change course, fly off someplace else and rise yet again. And it happens on "Only the Bird Knows," on which Richey takes to her acoustic guitar and deftly balances the instrument's inherent gentleness with serious rhythmic muscle. But mostly it just doesn't happen. For too much of Speechless, Richey and her rhythm section -- bassist Jimmy V and drummer David Clawson -- trod and plod. That is to say they trod on familiar territory (Stevie Ray Vaughan fans will often feel déjà vu) and plod through arrangements that never quite get off the ground. While the decision to make an instrumental album was a noble one indeed, the lack of vocals, rather than serve to draw attention to the musicians' proficiency or the properties of their interactions instead makes most of Speechless feel like backing tracks. Richey is obviously a talented guitar slinger, but she's lost for original ideas here. And the bassist and drummer are powerless to save her; drummer Clawson is particularly wooden throughout. It would not be surprising to learn that these same tunes have the potential to rile up a bar crowd, but the studio setting only points up the been-there-heard-that nature of the music.

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