Locals Only: : Wordless Heart

Kelly Richey proves you don't need a voice to sing the Blues

 
Michael Visher


Kelly Richey



Kelly Richey has plenty to say about her new album, which is ironic because she doesn't say a thing on it. Speechless, Richey's first new studio album in five years and the ninth of her acclaimed Blues/Rock career, is her first completely instrumental album. Even without the benefit of her trademark Janis Joplin-like vocal rasp, Speechless crackles with boundless energy as Richey invests her searing Blues riffs with the emotional power that her voice typically carries.

While Speechless is unquestionably powerful, one wonders why Richey would silence one of her strongest assets. It's a question she's fielded before.

"There are quite a few people who have helped me along the way, whether financially or just advice, and they were all skeptical when I said I was going to do an instrumental record," says Richey from her Cincinnati home on a rare road break. "I said, 'I've got to follow my intuition and do this.' When I sent it to all of them, they said, 'Well, I stand corrected.' It was a relief that they liked it and understood why I wanted to do it."

With no voice to rely on, Richey stepped up her guitar game on Speechless, peeling off licks that echo giants like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan ("One Day We'll Feel the Sun"), Joe Walsh ("Climb the Highest Mountain"), Eric Clapton ("Without a Trace") and Roy Buchanan ("Is There Any Reason").

While those songs bear traces of direct influences, Richey insists that her work is an organic extension of them.

"There's a handful of Rock/Blues guitar-slingers who come to everyone's mind and I'm totally influenced by them," says Richey. "I couldn't help but be reflective of those influences. But I've never been someone who could copy people. I've never really had the experience of trying to sound like someone else."

Speechless is the fruition of a dream for Richey, whose inspiration to do an instrumental album of her own came after hearing one by one of her guitar heroes.

"One of my favorite records is an instrumental album that Roy Buchanan did. It was his favorite record," says Richey. "I met Roy just a couple of weeks before his death. We were backstage, and he was blowing me off; he didn't know who I was. I was excited to meet him but I didn't want to bother him. I was just happy to say 'Hey, I really like your work.' As he was walking off, I said, 'My favorite record is You're Not Alone.' He turned around and looked at me so strange, and he goes, 'Nobody's heard that record.' I said, 'Well, I've worn out three vinyl copies of it. I know every note of it.' He came back and showed me a new guitar that Leo Fender had made for him and we talked ... that was a special moment."

Richey is quick to credit her new bandmates, bassist "Jimmy V" Valdez and drummer David Clawson, as critical to the success of Speechless.

"It's just really nice to settle back in with a rhythm section that I can call my own," says Richey. "We have the same vision, the same goals and we're working really hard. That makes all the difference in the world. I finally found these guys in Indianapolis. They love to work, they're great players, they've done a lot of touring so they knew what they were getting into when they signed up. We're just a really great team."

Richey's career began when the Lexington native started playing guitar and working as a musician as a teenager, ultimately leading to her high-profile gig with Stealin' Horses in the late '80s. Shortly after their Arista debut, Richey departed to form her own band in 1990. After a stint in Nashville, Richey decided she needed to be closer to her aging parents and relocated to Cincinnati in the mid-'90s.

"Cincinnati just seemed like the place to come," says Richey. "The press was always very kind and we had a strong fan base here. It seemed like more of a city. I thought, 'In the long run, this is going to be a nice place to be based, and I may stay.' Now it's 10 years later, and I'm still here."



THE KELLY RICHEY BAND (

 
Michael Visher


Kelly Richey



Kelly Richey has plenty to say about her new album, which is ironic because she doesn't say a thing on it. Speechless, Richey's first new studio album in five years and the ninth of her acclaimed Blues/Rock career, is her first completely instrumental album. Even without the benefit of her trademark Janis Joplin-like vocal rasp, Speechless crackles with boundless energy as Richey invests her searing Blues riffs with the emotional power that her voice typically carries.

While Speechless is unquestionably powerful, one wonders why Richey would silence one of her strongest assets. It's a question she's fielded before.

"There are quite a few people who have helped me along the way, whether financially or just advice, and they were all skeptical when I said I was going to do an instrumental record," says Richey from her Cincinnati home on a rare road break. "I said, 'I've got to follow my intuition and do this.' When I sent it to all of them, they said, 'Well, I stand corrected.' It was a relief that they liked it and understood why I wanted to do it."

With no voice to rely on, Richey stepped up her guitar game on Speechless, peeling off licks that echo giants like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan ("One Day We'll Feel the Sun"), Joe Walsh ("Climb the Highest Mountain"), Eric Clapton ("Without a Trace") and Roy Buchanan ("Is There Any Reason").

While those songs bear traces of direct influences, Richey insists that her work is an organic extension of them.

"There's a handful of Rock/Blues guitar-slingers who come to everyone's mind and I'm totally influenced by them," says Richey. "I couldn't help but be reflective of those influences. But I've never been someone who could copy people. I've never really had the experience of trying to sound like someone else."

Speechless is the fruition of a dream for Richey, whose inspiration to do an instrumental album of her own came after hearing one by one of her guitar heroes.

"One of my favorite records is an instrumental album that Roy Buchanan did. It was his favorite record," says Richey. "I met Roy just a couple of weeks before his death. We were backstage, and he was blowing me off; he didn't know who I was. I was excited to meet him but I didn't want to bother him. I was just happy to say 'Hey, I really like your work.' As he was walking off, I said, 'My favorite record is You're Not Alone.' He turned around and looked at me so strange, and he goes, 'Nobody's heard that record.' I said, 'Well, I've worn out three vinyl copies of it. I know every note of it.' He came back and showed me a new guitar that Leo Fender had made for him and we talked ... that was a special moment."

Richey is quick to credit her new bandmates, bassist "Jimmy V" Valdez and drummer David Clawson, as critical to the success of Speechless.

"It's just really nice to settle back in with a rhythm section that I can call my own," says Richey. "We have the same vision, the same goals and we're working really hard. That makes all the difference in the world. I finally found these guys in Indianapolis. They love to work, they're great players, they've done a lot of touring so they knew what they were getting into when they signed up. We're just a really great team."

Richey's career began when the Lexington native started playing guitar and working as a musician as a teenager, ultimately leading to her high-profile gig with Stealin' Horses in the late '80s. Shortly after their Arista debut, Richey departed to form her own band in 1990. After a stint in Nashville, Richey decided she needed to be closer to her aging parents and relocated to Cincinnati in the mid-'90s.

"Cincinnati just seemed like the place to come," says Richey. "The press was always very kind and we had a strong fan base here. It seemed like more of a city. I thought, 'In the long run, this is going to be a nice place to be based, and I may stay.' Now it's 10 years later, and I'm still here."



THE KELLY RICHEY BAND (kellyrichey.com) next plays Cincy at the East End Cafe on Nov. 3.
Kelly Richey

Scroll to read more Music News articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.