Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
Kim Richards is an artist, designer, teacher, musician, singer and songwriter from Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands. Exposed to traditional music sessions at home, writing songs for as long as she can remember and making cassette recordings since she was seven, this assured and well crafted album is her debut. The quality is evident from the moment you pick Leaves They Fly up, the gatefold sleeve is a hand drawn, digital illustrations and photos. The smooth blend between beautiful rendered traditional art and digital CAD gives a strong clue as to the flavour of what’s inside as Kim mixes her sounds as boldly and competently as she does her impressive art.
Kim Richards has a pure and fine voice, capable of being delicate and equally at home belting it out. On “First Love Becomes A Lads Hate” she gets to do both. The songs has a gentle acoustic start, but builds steadily with fluttering keyboards and accordion that sounds very contemporary. As the songs swirls and builds, so does Kim’s singing. Say We sets Kim’s soaring voice against a wash of insistent Guitars and mandolins. A layered folksy Tubular Bells sound with some sparkling whistle textures then a glorious voice floating and flying over the top. “The Mermaid”, inspired by a folk tale, is a delightful, filigree balance between piano and some electronic textures and beats. Again the song doesn’t stand still. Instead it rises and falls in mood like the sea, with Kim’s wordless vocal refrains over the top like mist. “Ballade Of Autumn”, with words from 19th Century poet and song collector Andrew Land, again balances, between the modern keyboard refrain, atmospherics and James Lindsay’s rich double bass. The overall blend is a warm blend of sounds that twine together perfectly. Mike Vass’ layers of backing vocals send us off into Enya The Celts territory. Kieran Halpin’s “Nothing To Show For It All” is another stirring piano ballad, with stirling support from Mairearad Green’s accordion and some fine vocals from Bryan Richards. “When The Leaves Grow” is another fine song with a moving, considered vocal, particularly the chorus. The accompaniment builds gently around the piano that opens the piece, electronic string sounds, fiddle and ripples of percussion create a wonderful soundscape. Kim and Mike Vass deliver some perfect vocals and stirring lyrics on “Footprints In The Snow” with a beautiful electronics and percussion atmosphere around them.
If Kim Richards had recorded this songs accompanying herself on the piano, then the quality of her voice, writing and playing would have made this a fine listen. As it is the players she has assembled and the rich arrangements, layering ancient, modern, acoustic and electronic, swaddle the listener and make it a powerful experience.