Kim Richey / Big Back Forty – Elbow Room (Columbia, SC)
It was obvious from the start of Kim Richey’s half of this double bill that this would be a friendly, family affair. Richey and her band had been on this same stage only four months prior, opening for Junior Brown, and plainly had made some new fans. From the opening blasts of “Every River” and “I’m Alright”, the audience was singing along, dancing, and generally having a great time. The band was in high spirits as well, indulging in such extracurricular activities as a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, sung by guitarist Kenny Vaughn to a stagefront celebrant, and a comical episode in which an appreciative fan offered up shots of a liquid that Vaughn noted “smells like mouthwash.” Vaughn and Richey passed along the shot to her capable co-writer and producer, Angelo, who downed it immediately, to the hooting approval of the rowdy club.
Some music did get played between moments of levity, and it was fine stuff. Vaughn showed why he’s one of the best electric guitarists around with some fancy fretwork on several numbers, and Angelo took center stage for a wonderful lead vocal on “A Hundred Miles Ago”. Richey herself, along with subtle counterpoint by Vaughn, introduced a few new songs in an acoustic format halfway through the night.”These are so new, I haven’t taught ’em to the band yet,” she explained. Richey then plugged her friend John Crooke’s band Jolene before launching into a soaring version of “Falling”, a song they co-wrote.
Richey and her band were having such a good time that, after the end of the set, they reappeared for a two-song encore even though the onlookers had dwindled to less than 50 people. Those remaining were treated to an achingly gorgeous duet of Kim and Angelo on “Why Can’t I Say Goodnight”, the closing track on her current album, Bitter Sweet.
Big Back Forty opened with a big, booming sound, showcasing many of the songs off their Polydor debut, Bested. Highlights of their set were the album’s title track, “Blood”, and “Monte Carlo”, which lead singer Sean Beal noted was “written about an old girlfriend who drove a Monte Carlo.” Reminiscent of the Rainmakers, Omar & the Howlers and even Better Than Ezra at times, Big Back Forty seem more bluster than substance on the surface, but a closer listen — and on this particular night, a better mix than the thundering bass-heavy one they endured — might reveal more.