Like so many Nashville artists who don't dent the country charts, Kim Richey is more folk-rock than country, her tasteful, rootsy sound and sharp, smart songwriting having more in common with the likes of John Hiatt, Rosanne Cash, or labelmate Lucinda Williams than with anything you'll hear on mainstream country radio. Though not as tormented as Williams or as flashy as, say, Shelby Lynne, Richey is nevertheless a talent of that caliber. And, though I prefer 1997's more rock-oriented Bitter Sweet, Richey's most recent album, 2002's understated Lost Highway debut Rise, is generally considered a career peak. Richey will be performing locally Friday, April 25th, at Neil's in Midtown in a move that, following last month's appearance by noted singer-songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey, continues the venue's stepped-up music bookings.
Richey will also be appearing Saturday, April 26th, at the Double Decker Festival at the lovely town square in Oxford, Mississippi. The headliner at Double Decker this year is Los Lobos, the eclectic L.A. roots band that can make a legitimate claim to being one of the very best bands of the past 20 years, with two should-be classics under their belt -- 1984's breakthrough, How Will the Wolf Survive?, and 1996's underrated sonic tour de force, Colossal Head. Others scheduled to appear at Double Decker include Fat Possum bluesman T Model Ford and local standouts The North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, and Cory Branan.
For those looking for something less rootsy, one of the post-punk scene's great raconteurs and iconoclasts, Mike Watt, will be at the Hi-Tone Café Thursday, April 24th. Watt was the bassist for the seminal '80s band the Minutemen, moving on to form fIREHOSE after the untimely death of Minutemen frontman D. Boon. Watt returned to recording with a vengeance in the mid-'90s, first with 1995's all-star-laden Ball-Hog or Tugboat (featuring the righteous antinostalgia anthem "Against the '70s," sung by Eddie Vedder, of all people) and then with 1997's "rock opera" Contemplating the Engine Room, which conflated his Minutemen days with his father's Navy stint. Watt, more bass player than frontman, hasn't released anything new since, but he remains one of the great spiritual heroes of the '80s indie scene and one of the genuine characters still out there.
Finally, on the local scene, singer-songwriter Justice Naczycz will hold a record-release party at the Hi-Tone Saturday, April 26th, for his debut disc, Water for the Withered Root. The record is a mostly downbeat, strongly sung singer-songwriter set in the vein of Richard Buckner, Ron Sexsmith, or even Jeff Buckley. As a songwriter, Naczycz rejects the verse-chorus-bridge form in favor of straight-line storytelling, a perfectly reasonable style that could get wearying for those not hanging on every word. But, thankfully, Water for the Withered Root --recorded with Ross Rice, former Big Ass Trucker Steve Selvidge (who also produced), and Lucero bassist John Stubblefield --is strong and varied enough musically to keep from dragging. Naczycz will be joined at the Hi-Tone by His Visible Band, which includes Selvidge and sometime Alvin Youngblood Hart and Cory Branan sidemen Mark Stuart and John Argroves. --Chris Herrington