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In January 2024, Kim Richey found herself in Mexico, gazing out at a sea of people singing along to “I’m Alright,” one of her classic tracks. The three folks on stage with the veteran, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter were also raising their voices in harmony. To her right sat Brandi Carlile, to her left, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Brandy Clark. The formidable foursome was participating in a songwriter’s round only half-jokingly dubbed “Titans of Americana” at Carlile’s female-forward Girls Just Wanna Weekend festival on the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

“That was nuts looking out and seeing everybody arm-waving and singing along,” says Richey, still both incredulous and cheered by the memory of performing with that supergroup and later appearing alongside other Girls Just Wanna Weekend-ers Annie Lennox, Lucius, Allison Russell, and Sarah McLachlan among others. “It was just like, ‘wow’!”

The good news for fans of this particular Titan is there will soon be a whole new batch of songs to sing along with and arm wave to with the forthcoming release of her 10th studio album Every New Beginning.

Due out May 24, 2024 the album features 10 tracks, written, or co-written by Richey with a coterie of characters, over the course of several years, and produced by critically lauded multi-instrumentalist and producer Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, John Hiatt). It was recorded at Skinny Elephant studio in Nashville with engineer Dylan Alldredge in August 2023 with musical assistance from longtime collaborators like Dan Mitchell and Neilson Hubbard — who produced Richey’s 2013 album Thorn in My Heart — and newer friends like Nashville neighbor Aaron Lee Tasjan, who lends his irrepressibly sparkly musicality to the proceedings. Every New Beginning manages to continue the throughline of Richey’s nearly 30-year career while simultaneously adding a new chapter. 

The songs represent the full spectrum of the Ohio native’s gifts as both a revered songwriter who can leap from melancholy to mirthful in a single couplet — whose songs have been recorded by the likes of Brooks and Dunn, Patty Loveless, and Mary Chapin Carpenter — and owner of one of music’s truly celestial voices. 

That voice, which Brandi Carlile has cited as formative in crafting her own style, is a widely sought after harmony instrument and has been featured on scores of albums including Jason Isbell’s acclaimed Southeastern, Trisha Yearwood’s Everybody Knows, Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams, Reba McEntire’s Starting Over, and Has Been by Capt. Kirk himself William Shatner, among many others.  Richey’s music continues to loiter at the Americana intersection of country, folk, pop, and rock conjuring everything from Lucinda’s humanity, the Beatles shimmer, Tom Petty’s effervescent stomp and Joni Mitchell’s laser-sharp lyrical craft.

Given that Richey’s last release was 2020’s Long Way Back… the Songs of Glimmer, an intimate reimagining of her acclaimed 1999 album, Every New Beginning is an apt title for the new album.

It sprang from something Richey heard in the 2023 documentary King Coal. “It was really great,” she says of the meditative examination of the cultural legacy of the coal industry. “A little girl narrates the film, and it starts out with a funeral procession, and she says, ‘My dad used to say every new beginning starts with an end.’ And I was like, ‘I’ll have that. Thank you very much.’ And now it’s the name of my record and what this record means to me.”

Accordingly, Richey starts at the beginning with the aching rainy-day remembrance of “Chapel Avenue.”  Written with Don Henry, the pair combined childhood memories to capture a universally recognizable series of flashbacks, easing into the album with a bittersweet ballad, a Richey special. 

Skateboards and lemonade stands
4th of July parade bands
Creature feature matinees
High dive – I double dare you
Hormones enough to scare you
Day dreaming summer time away 

“That’s what’s interesting to me,” she says of that sweet spot between cheerful and rueful. “Nothing in life is all happy or all sad.”

“A Way Around” deftly documents those long nights with big talks and full ashtrays and the songs that make you feel less alone. 

Drop the needle on your favorite sad song
You’re not the only one
Who ever got it all wrong

Co-written with Tasjan and Brian Wright the midtempo anthem is one of several tunes that listeners may find themselves singing along with by the second chorus. “That’s why I love sad songs,” says Richey of this gauzy toe-tapper about the sense of solace we get from wallowing with our favorite records. “I think I came by it honestly from my mom, but it’s just like that’s what speaks to you when you are a little sad. You don’t want to hear a happy song. You want to know that somebody knows how you feel.”

Just a few tracks later, Richey drops the heartbreak hammer with “Feel This Way,” which pinpoints that sense of rock-bottom forlornness. The B3-blessed weeper is essentially the song that “A Way Around” is about. “When you’re pitiful, you’re just pitiful,” Richey says with a laugh of the track which still manages to wring a few wry laughs as the narrator reaches to open a new box of tissues. 

They say one day I’ll “look back and laugh”
If they wanna make it better they gotta do better than that

“So at least it has a little bit of attitude, it’s not a super whine-a-thon,” says Richey with another chuckle.  Whether it’s a romantic break-up, a death, or some other kind of loss, “You just can’t see your way out of it, and I think people can totally relate to that feeling no matter what.”

Meanwhile, “Joy Rider,” a delighted and delightful piano rocker that chronicles the defiant spirit of a young biker that revved around Richey’s neighborhood in the early days of the pandemic, takes a different tack. 

“That was the first song that Aaron Lee and I wrote together,” she says of Tasjan, who she calls “crazy good.” The pair used to be close neighbors and the whole neighborhood was atwitter with talk about this young guy both menacing the streets and inspiring a sense of freedom in a time of claustrophobia.  “He’s older now and he’s still going around on the neighborhood on a minibike,” says Richey of the mystery rider.  

When it came to choosing the songs, only a few were written recently with some dating back over a decade. “Some people I know write songs for a specific album, but I did nothing but write for so many years that I have a pretty big catalog of songs to go through,” she says, noting it becomes a puzzle to fit them together into a cohesive whole as she rummages through. 

While phantom connective tissue may seem to appear between the songs — perhaps the narrator contemplating the decay that has befallen a relationship in “The World is Flat” is the same one finally feeling some hope in the optimistically Beatles-esque album closer “A Moment in the Sun”? —  it is not intentional. “Sometimes songs seem like premonitions almost,” says Richey. “You’ll write a song and not know quite where it came from, and then realize what it means later on. It’s all in your subconscious, swirling around in there somewhere.”

For now, Richey only knows a few things for sure. One is it feels good to be considered a Titan — when peers like Carpenter, spiritual heirs like Carlile and Clark, and vocal acolytes like Isbell, among many others, sing her praises, she says, “It’s really nice. You can’t beat it, really.” The other is that with Every New Beginning Richey is still striving for the same goal she had at the beginning of her own musical life: “Whenever I write a song, the thing that I enjoy the most is when someone hears a song or a line and says, ‘That’s how I feel.’”  As long as the music is connecting, there is no end.

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