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Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009 09:04 pm

A pair of songbirds

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The second 2009 presentation of the WUIS-sponsored concert series, Bedrock 66 Live! could hardly be more opposite than the first. Sarah Borges rocked the Hoogland in January, with reports of delightfully raucous behavior demonstrated by the rowdy fans enjoying the rock-influenced, pop sounds of the Boston-based singer-songwriter. At this month’s performance expect intensely quiet sounds with all the rocking going on in the chairs as Kim Richey and Sally Barris, two inimitable, Nashville-based, female performers take the stage in an intimate, listening room atmosphere.

Both singer-songwriters reside in Music City USA, but like most musicians who live there, moved to the country music mecca looking to make a mark in the business world while enjoying the advantages of the built-in, artistic community. The two gifted writers found success in composing hits for other artists, most notably with Trisha Yearwood, known to all songwriters of integrity as a great friend of good songs. Richey scored a writer’s hit with Yearwood’s version of Believe Me Baby (I Lied) and Barris received a 2008 Grammy nomination for Let the Wind Chase You, a Yearwood vocal collaboration with Keith Urban. As the two artists worked at commercial writing, they also developed solo careers outside of the typical, cookie-cutter, Nashville, hit-making machine, finding niches in the music market that allowed for their individualistic styles to emerge.

Once Richey reigned as a darling of the almost-country world, a land sometimes referred to as alternative country, where critically acclaimed records and performances gain artists incredible amounts of respect, but little chart success or monetary reward. Her first major label release came in 1995 on Mercury Nashville and since then she has steadily veered out of the mainstream country market. Along the way she worked with such stars as Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Radney Foster and Ryan Adams, while expanding her musical vision to include pop, rock, blues, folk and other genres.

The Ohio native continues to release spectacularly good recordings, the most recent being Chinese Boxes (2007), produced by Giles Martin, son of the Sir George Martin of Beatles production fame. Richey spends a good deal of her time performing in Europe, particularly in England and specifically London, which is fast becoming her second home these days. In March she heads to Australia for a few weeks of shows down under, then returns to tour England.

Barris spent most of her Nashville days immersed in the traditional songwriting business, working with highly respected Wrensong Publishing penning hits for Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, Kathy Mattea and others. In 2007 she released her third independently produced CD, Restless Soul, to critical acclaim and chart success on the Folk DJ music listings. In the last few years, in support of the disc and to return to her performing roots, Barris increased her touring schedule with forays to the West Coast, the southeastern U.S., and her native Minnesota, plus landing a supporting slot on Marc Cohn’s southern U.S. tour and a main stage appearance at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival in 2008.

The soaring soprano first broke into the Springfield market in 2005 with shows at the Cabin Concerts, a popular, locally produced house concert series (which incidentally, returns on March 13 with Gerry O’Beirne, Upstairs at Charles and Limey’s) and found an appreciative audience in the area’s folk and bluegrass music crowd. Upcoming ventures for Barris include a March tour of Denmark and Sweden and April shows in the U.S. with the Waymores, a trio of acclaimed, award-winning, Nashville writers, including Don Henry, Tom Kimmel and Barris.

At the Bedrock 66 Live! show you’ll hear Sally and Kim duet on their co-written numbers, then perform solo pieces from the treasure trove of song these two profoundly intense and engaging performers created through many years of artistic revelation through songwriting.

Kim Richey and Sally Barris at the WUIS Bedrock 66 Live! concert series, 8 p.m., Hoogland Center for the Arts (217-523-2787), Friday, Feb. 27.

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