Saturday, October 11, 2008

“Christ, I think he’s even combed his hair…”

"Are those new shoes?” I enquire of Our Glorious Leader. “No” he replies, “I’ve just polished them”. “He’s also had the car valeted” adds La Mulley helpfully. We are in the presence of greatness, you see, for thanks to a happy set of incidences we are due to play a couple of shows with Nashville-based singer/songwriter Kim Richey, the woman who OGL credits with bringing him back from the brink during his “My soul went dead to music” period (a process which ultimately led to our current incarnation as Songs from The Blue House, so all credit to Kim for any number of things).

To further replenish his well of human happiness Ms Richey will be staying chez Partridge at The Blue House itself, and so usual the post-gig process by which he retires to The Snug (it’s a glorified shed) with a couple of Brewers Golds and an endless supply of post-prandial roll ups to wind down and reflect while listening to (say) Kim Richey will be complicated somewhat by the actual presence of Kim Richey herself - the prospect of which, I think it’s safe to say, has Our Glorious Leader about as pleased as a dog with two tails. He loves that girl like a Mentee loves chocolate cake. 

When I meet Kim it is post a round of interviews, radio sessions and an extended lunch in the pub, all of which she has been chauffeured to by you-know-who, and she is charming, friendly and about as un-Nashville-starry as you could possibly imagine. This is a default mode that she will maintain throughout the course of the evening, subtly self deprecating as she tells a story onstage about volunteering for the five-to-seven session at her local store, working on voter registration. When she turns up to relieve the prior shift she is apparently informed that to her great good fortune she will be “….working with Kim Richey!” 

I think it’s fair to say that general household recognition has eluded her, despite the fact that she writes some great songs, is a capable guitar player (some of her finger picking stuff had a grown man in tears of happiness at the gig in Kelvedon) and has one of those clear, pure, keening voices that seem so effortless when you’re watching but an absolute bugger when you’re trying to do it yourself in the shower next day. 

She is also endearingly scatty. I’m moved to enthuse about a YouTube performance I’ve seen with her singing with one of my personal favourite songwriter/performers, Darden Smith. She clearly has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, which makes it quite challenging to carry the compliment through. “I’m sorry” she graciously returns “I have the memory of a goldfish”. “Tell her it’s her turn to pay for lunch” I stage whisper to James. 

Our first date together is at The Kelvedon Institute, a non-profit project run by James and resident SftBH banjoista Turny Winn. It’s not, strictly speaking, supposed to be a non-profit organization, it simply seems to have developed that way, but the intimate atmosphere, subtle lighting and ‘listening’ audience have all been carefully cultivated by the pair, honed through a generous combined experience of what it’s like to play bad gigs, and so backstage is generously appointed, the sound man doesn’t wander off half way through your set for a fag, there is a lighting engineer who actually listens to the music and adjusts the lamps accordingly and the turns are of a consistently high standard. 

Unfortunately in order to avoid accusations of nepotism and unnecessary overkill, they won’t let us play there very often. Kim Richey goes down a storm, her solo set perfectly suited to the low lighting, the cabaret set up of the tables and the good-natured feedback from the audience. Oh, and we played, I rambled on for far too long between songs (as usual) and we had to drop a song from the set as the bug on the bouzouki was playing up. 

Unfortunately Turny was counting songs rather than listening to them and so when he timed his re-entry to the stage after a section of the set where he doesn’t play he didn’t realize that we’d skipped one on the list and consequently joined in half way through an extended “Not That Kind of Girl” intro. In the absence of anyone who sits down to play I stepped up to take the solo in my own all-too-imitable fashion. Half way through Our Glorious Leader sidled over to me. “Stop it!” he hissed.