Two years after releasing a much praised first disc, Kim Richey is still best known as an A-list Nashville tunesmith. She has cowritten country chart-toppers for Trisha Yearwood and Radney Foster but has yet to perform that feat on her own behalf.
Perhaps she's playing to the wrong crowd. At 40, Richey doesn't possess the ingenue quality of country's female flavors of the moment (LeAnn Rimes and Deana Carter), and rather than riding a twang all the way to honky-tonk heaven, she has settled into that comfortable niche between country and singer-songwriter rock. Bitter Sweet merges lonesome blues and rural sensibility—check out the banjo riffs of "I'm Alright" and the down-home, knee-slapping rhythm of "I Know"—with quiet introspection and uncluttered production.
Richey is no powerhouse diva. Her no-frills singing lacks the theatrical punch and pitch-perfect clarity of Rimes and Yearwood. Still, her low-key vibe and unpretentious manner can make as mundane a message as the I-love-you-always-forever sentiment of "Every River" sound fresh and inspired. (Mercury)