a better, more soulful Richey

Live at Tommy's on Main (
Kelly Richey Band

By Alys Willman

At last, the Kelly Richey Band the way it was meant to be heard. Live.

The band's newest CD, Live at Tommy's on Main, is proof that things get better with time -- not that the band needed much improvement. Live at Tommy's on Main, recorded in Cincinnati at a bar bearing the title name, features a little more of Kelly, whereas her previous releases, Sister's Got a Problem and The Blues Don't Lie, focused almost exclusively on Kelly's guitar.

Her self-written "The Blues Don't Lie" track is slowed down for the live CD, and her vocals seem less constricted. Richey's voice is especially gravely for this track, and it works well with the song. She seems to be experimenting with different vocal styles throughout the CD, from a coarse, angsty style in "Tears Like Rain" to a softer timbre in "Down By The River".

Only two of the songs on this CD are Richey's originals; the rest are classics by Hendrix, Joplin, King and others. If you're really attached to the original versions, be advised that, in Richey's usual style, they are not simply cover versions. Richey is known for interpreting, rather than covering, these artists' songs.

Richey's version of Hendrix's "Hey Joe" is a little faster and a little smoother in places than the original, but her guitar solos are no less impressive. Richey wouldn't play Hendrix numbers unless she felt she could do them justice, and her confidence and skill comes through, riff after riff, as she signs her own name in stylistic guitar licks and wails.

As usual, Richey lets her guitar do most of the talking -- a good percentage of each song is taken up by guitar solo. Two of the best solos are in "Key to the Highway" and "Hey Joe." The combination of Richey's rock 'n' roll guitar and bassist Terry Williamson's steady, bluesy base make for a sizzling mix, particularly in Freddie King's "Hide Away."

At times though, Richey's guitar and voice are a bit rough for the song. Neil Young's "Down by the River" really grooves toward the beginning, with Williamson's bass line creeping up and down underneath Richey's haunting, ominous sound on lead. But the mood changes quickly when her solo gets a little too hard. Likewise, her version of Joplin's "Piece of My Heart" suffers from too coarse vocals and a howling, almost piercing guitar in places.

Overall, Richey's style stays constant throughout the CD, making this a great album to listen to all the way through. To put it simply, this latest CD has more soul than her other two. Richey is an artist who feeds off her audience, who draws energy from her fans. Her vocals are more confident and more experimental, and her guitar solos more intense when fueled by audience response.