When Kim Richey's self-titled debut disc arrived in 1995 to critical acclaim, the public, along with country radio, largely ignored the singer/songwriter. Perhaps her thoughtful lyrics and more contemporary folk sound were too organic when compared to the glossy country-pop of the time. Perhaps her beautifully rounded voice was not as forceful or demanding as the leading country divas. Whatever the case, hardly anyone noticed this sparkling gem among the hayseeds, and only those who took the time to seek her out were rewarded with a musical treasure. Seven years later she was still flying well below the radar when her masterwork, Rise, arrived and redefined her sound and direction. This time people began to take notice, and although sales were still low, Richey garnered a new set of fans who became entranced by her exceptional songwriting. Although Rise was her most accomplished and focused work, there are brilliant songs from previous albums that are among her best and are waiting to be rediscovered. The Collection is a fine sampling of these songs and is a perfect place to begin for anyone who is just now discovering Richey's music. Taken from her debut disc, the quiet rhythms and delicate arrangement of "Can't Find the Words" perfectly capture the essence of Richey's music, while "Those Words We Said" is the hit that never was as a chugging organ drives the song's aching melody. The lazy pop of "I Know," from Bitter Sweet, also missed on radio, but that album's true highlight is "Straight as the Crow Flies," one of Richey's sweetest and most heartfelt songs. The two selections from Glimmer, her glossy misstep produced by Hugh Padgham (the Police, Genesis), weigh down the middle of the disc, but her four songs from Rise, including the tender "A Place Called Home," showcase an artist who is still developing, growing, and has so much more to offer. Also included is an unreleased studio track titled "Break You Down," along with a live version of Rise's "Electric Green," featuring Pete Droge. While both of these are satisfying additions to her catalog, neither is essential and could have easily been replaced by more deserving songs like the jubilant "Here I Go Again" from the debut album. Regardless, The Collection is a first-rate introduction to an artist whose musical gifts have been ignored for far too long.
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AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham