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Trio has gigs next week on Whyte
By Roger Levesque, edmontonjournal.com
The Kelly Richey Band Live
April 16th - 21st at Blues On Whyte
Photo by: Sonya Ziegler
EDMONTON - At one time it was pretty unusual to find a woman heading up a blues power trio.
Just ask Kelly Richey.
“When I was in high school, girls didn’t play electric guitar,” explains the self-described “guitar-slinger,” who makes her Edmonton debut next week.
“There were The Runaways and Joan Jett and that was it, so when I would call for an audition, people were surprised and they’d tell me, ‘We filled that slot’. So I set off with a chip on each shoulder to prove I could play. I would get in my pickup truck and hit every jam session I could. It’s exhausting to think about a lot of the stuff I did.”
As she approaches her 50th birthday later this year, Richey is happy to note that things have improved.
“The landscape has changed, but I still get people coming up to me saying, ‘wow, you’re great for a girl’ or ‘I’ve never seen a girl play like that’, and I just accept that because I guess they haven’t. It’s not an insult. Men may have more physical strength but I work out to stay strong and physically fit and I’ve taught guitar lessons for 30 years.”
Richey feels she brings something else to the blues both as a player, and as a singer who works her own social and political awareness into songwriting.
“Where brute strength leaves off, my interpretation of things steps right in and women have a certain emotional quality that’s unique. It’s not better or worse, just different and it’s something special that we females bring to the instrument. But in the end I’m determined to have people judge me as a guitarist and not a female guitarist.”
Touring once kept her on the road up to 275 nights a year but when the rigours of hard living finally caught up with her, she decided to take a year off in 2010.
“I wasn’t at the top of my game and I knew if I was going to continue to do this, I needed to get it together because I wasn’t a kid anymore. Now I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in and I’m thankful to take control of my career to do it the way I want to.”
To mark the next leg of her career, Richey released two albums in January on her Sweet Lucy label. Finding My Way Back Home features her quieter side playing a six-string acoustic guitar on a dozen tracks that traverse various blues and roots styles.
Live: 1996-2011 is a double-disc compilation of hot electric blues performances that shows why she’s been compared to Stevie Ray Vaughn and Janis Joplin. Oodles of guitarists have covered the Jimi Hendrix tune Hey Joe over the years but few draw it out as deliciously as Richey does live over 10 minutes.
You understand immediately that this woman loves to play and heading up a power trio is exactly the right format to hear her stretch. Bassist Jimmy Chavez has been with her since 2005, while drummer Danne Sheets puts in his fresh, driving momentum.
As a kid, Richey told people she was going to be a rock star or a preacher but in the end she says “Hendrix changed my life.” Growing up in Lexington, Ky., in the 1960s, she was exposed to both white and black gospel music. Her family attended one of the first Baptist churches to host an integrated congregation and she first performed piano there. At the same time, she was hearing new developments in rock ’n’ roll on the radio. She got her first electric guitar at 15.
“I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me later in life. I found myself gravitating toward blues-based rock but it took me some time to draw the connection between my gospel roots and the roots of rock. I was also dyslexic so school was difficult for me but the guitar was a powerful thing, part of my identity. I could hide behind the guitar and it allowed me to feel rebellious.”
She formed her own band and started touring as soon as she finished high school, eventually joining a group called Stealing Horses. Her four-year stint with that band ended in 1990. Proudly independent, Richey started a band again and formed her own label too, releasing her debut Sister’s Gotta Problem in 1994. She has put out a dozen others since then as career moves took her to Atlanta, New York and Nashville before she eventually settled in Cincinnati 15 years ago.
By Roger Levesque, edmontonjournal.com
Kelly Richey’s Trio plays Blues On Whyte, 10329 Whyte Ave., Monday to Wednesday 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., next Thursday to Saturday 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a $6 cover Friday and Saturday only.
The Edmonton Journal
It has been said -- Kelly Richey is considered one of the greatest female guitarists in the world.