Janis, Jimi . . . and Kelly

Sister's Got A Problem (self-produced)
Kelly Richey Band

By Michael Campbell

Sister's Got A Problem, by Kelly Richey, adopts a documentary approach that says: Here's what we are musically about today; no frills, no studio enhancement trickery, no guest appearances, take it or leave it. I'll take it.

Richey, ably supported by Terry Williamson on bass, Shawn Wells on drums, and Kopana Terry on additional percussion, offers an almost purist view of the traditional power trio, focused on rock-based blues. The choice of material ranges from her own compositions (including the title cut, "Travelin', City Between the Lines," "Just a Thing," and "I Don't Feel Good"), to the "classic rock" of "All Along the Watchtower," to 1930s Delta blues (Robert Johnson's "Ramblin' On My Mind"), and is delivered with maximum sincerity and intensity.

The live rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" provides insight into Richey's musical values. It crackles with the expected Hendrix electricity, sharing Jimi's affinity for allowing all the microtones between bent notes to be heard. But this is more than mere Hendrix genuflection; the band takes a sweet improvisational ride on this song, avoiding the cliches into which other bands have fallen.

Richey's Stratocaster dishes up a satisfying variety of hot licks, tones and effects throughout. Did I mention that she can also sing like Janis Joplin? The vocals on this recording are as compelling as the playing, as showcased on the acoustic-based "Serves You Right to Suffer."

So what we have is a very promising, no-nonsense recording of power-trio, blues-based rock, featuring the considerable talents of one who can play like Hendrix and sing like Joplin. As wonderful a blessing as these are, the challenge for this band in their future recordings will be to apply those talents to expand their musical territory into uncharted realms. There's certainly enough talent to do so.