Kim Richey, “Edgeland” (Yep Roc Records)
Kim Richey has been winning over critics for years, but music buyers have been slower to catch on. On her eighth album, “Edgeland,” she once again demonstrates the range of her talent.
From the delicious opening guitar lick on “The Red Line,” a deceptively simple song about a ride on Chicago’s “L,” Richey shows off her ability to turn mundane details into A-level song craft. The song lifts an ordinary train ride into art in a way that a lot of songwriters try but few pull off.
In Richey’s hands, the effect is dazzling. She puts listeners on the train beside her, though it feels like she’s alone there, lost in thought and discerning observation.
Richey sustains that level of craftsmanship through a dozen new songs, including collaborations with Chuck Prophet, Robyn Hitchcock, Mike Henderson and other Nashville mainstays. She makes the most of terrific ensemble playing, and her old-soul singing conveys sadness and energy all at once.
Those who know Richey’s work will find fresh magic here — songs like “Pin a Rose,” a ballad about lending a sympathetic ear to a heartbroken friend, and “Can’t Let You Go,” another moving Richey anthem. Throughout it all, she matches surprising twists of melody to lyrics that bring fresh wonder to age-old subjects.
For those unfamiliar with Richey’s impressive body of work, “Edgeland” invites a deeper listen. And if it inspires a longer journey back through her entire catalog, that will be a ride worth taking.
If you’ve only heard of Trixie Mattel as the blonde, bee-hive wearing winner of “All Stars 3,” then you’ve only scratched the surface of this comedian, television show host and musician.
Mattel has released two albums, 2017’s “Two Birds,” and this year’s “One Stone,” which fits into the star’s comedy set on the road. Mattel is the stage name of Brian Firkus, who was taught to play Roy Orbison and George Jones songs by his grandfather.
“My grandpa always used to say that being a musician was 40 percent how good you were and 60 percent how good you looked doing it,” Firkus said. “And I guess as a drag queen performer that 60 percent of how good I look really does matter to me.”
Early on, he was not a fan of country music. He found it simple and boring. But as Firkus got older, he found a lot more emotional complexity in the music.
“It’s storytelling. For me, its fables and parables about how things can go wrong in life,” Firkus said. “One of my all-time favorite songs, ‘Ring of Fire,’ compares being in love to the feeling of being on fire. That’s not something you forget about.”
The towering Mattel will tell jokes about relationships and breaking up, then pick up an autoharp and sing a sad song to punctuate the set. The two albums are sonically a little different, with the first being more country and the second more folk. But the lyrics are peppered with references to other classic country songs.
Firkus was initially unsure how the songs would play in the set, especially since they tended to sound sad.
Nicky Jam says there’s no need to record albums to make it in the music industry anymore, and with “X’’ he proves the theory once more.
The Latin Grammy winner’s new single with Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin, released early this month, leads the Spotify and Apple Music lists from Argentina to Spain and beyond. The video has more than 288 million views.
He says he released “Fenix” in 2017 because it had been years since he had an album and he wanted to give one to his fans.
He attributes the success of “X’’ to Balvin. The two have worked together in the past, with hit remixes that include “Bonita,” “Ginza” and “Ay vamos.”
LOS ANGELES: Arcade Fire, Michael Buble, Diana Krall, Shawn Mendes, and late Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie were among the 2018 Juno Award winners in Vancouver over the weekend. Arcade Fire’s “Everything Now” won album of the year, Downie won artist of the year and shared Songwriter of the Year with collaborator Kevin Drew, Mendes won both Fan Choice award and Single of the Year for “There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back,” and Jessie Reyez won Breakthrough Artist. The Junos are essentially Canada’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards.
In a thematic reprise of the 2018 Grammy Awards in January, Reyez was the only female artist to win in a major category. Head here for a complete list of winners.
Arcade Fire, who with Reyez led the nominees with four, performed during the awards show on Sunday night. The group also were the first non-solo artist to receive the International Achievement Award for “exemplary success on a global scale.” (Previous recipients include Drake, Celine Dion and Shania Twain.)
LOS ANGELES: Desmond Childs will receive the ASCAP Founders Award at the performance rights organization’s annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards, to be held in Beverly Hills on April 23. The songwriter’s credits include Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name,” Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like A Lady),” Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” among other hits.
In addition, Lana Del Rey will be recognized with the Global Impact Award and Portugal. The Man will receive the Vanguard Award.
Said ASCAP President Paul Williams of Childs: “Desmond is one of the most respected and successful songwriters in the world. His unique ability to capture the essence of our lives through song — whether we’re livin’ la vida loca or livin’ on a prayer — is simply unequaled. We are honored to present Desmond with the ASCAP Founders Award in recognition of his towering achievements.” (Agencies)
With #1 hits spanning five decades now, Desmond surely has many more milestones still to come.”
Added longtime collaborator Jon Bon Jovi: “The Desmond you don’t know about is the one who not only taught me the next level of songwriting but so many of the true aspects of friendship: truth, honor, and loyalty.”
An autobiography by Childs, co-written by David Rits and called “Livin’ on a Prayer: Big Songs Big Life,” is scheduled for release in the fall.
The ASCAP Founders Award recognized “pioneering ASCAP songwriters who made exceptional contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their creative community.” Past recipients including Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, Patti Smith, James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler & Joe Perry, Billy Joel, Neil Young, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, Carly Simon and Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, among others. (Agencies)
By Scott Stroud