Thorn in My Heart
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
If 2010’s Wreck Your Wheels was a retrenchment from the fussy production of its predecessor—2007’s terrific if underappreciated Chinese Boxes—then this new release from the always dependable Richey continues the backwards momentum. It further strips down the instrumentation leaving an open and uncluttered sound. As you can tell from the album’s title, Richey is not in the most joyful of moods and much of this falls on the melancholy side of lost or unrequited love.
“Come on and go with me,” she encourages a lover stuck in a stagnant town in “Come On,” one of the set’s comparatively harder edged tunes, but you get the sense he’s not going to leave. The jazzy, walking stand-up bass of “I Will Wait” shifts the folk/country groove in a noir, blue velvet direction. Even though the atmosphere stays on low boil, each song is a lovely chapter in a book of sad stories sung with Richey’s exquisite, effortless voice and usual restraint. When it seems that things are turning around for the better on the closing “Everything’s Gonna Be Good,” the skeletal ballad with wisps of reverbed guitar, brushed drums and understated piano recounts only a partial rebound from relationship gone sour. The listener is never convinced the singer means what she says in the song’s title.
Richey’s doe-eyed, bittersweet approach perfectly captures the hurt and regret in her material, but you may wish there were more glimmers of light to offset her somewhat bleak outlook.