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Kim Richey’s latest venture has plenty of ‘Heart’

Kim Richey is playing Martrys’ Friday night.

Kim Richey is playing Martrys’ on Friday night.

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♦ 8 p.m. March 22

♦ Martyr’s, 3855 N. Lincoln

♦ Tickets, $20

♦ (773) 404-9494;

Updated: March 20, 2013 5:25PM

A gentle mist covers Kim Richey’s upcoming “Thorn In My Heart” album.

The acclaimed country singer- songwriter left Nashville, Tenn., to live in London, England for three years. Last May she returned to Nashville, where she resides in a self-described “double-wide trailer” in the middle of the woods about 20 miles north ofthe city.

“Thorn In My Heart” is an evocative reflection of her recent travels, ranging from the ambient blues-flavored “I Will Wait” to “Something More,” a ballad about a couple’s quest for higher ground.

Richey hits town for a concert on March 22 at Martyrs’ (Dan Navarro is also on the bill). She will be accompanied by Dan Mitchell (keyboard, flugelhorn, harmony vocals) and Neilson Hubbard (bass and percussion).

“Thorn In My Heart” (Yep Roc) is only Richey’s seventh album since her outstanding self-titled 1995 debut, which was filled with pop hooks and guitar arrangements from producer Richard Bennett during his post-Steve Earle run. The engaging “Just My Luck” became a breakout single for her.

A native of Zanesville, Ohio, Richey moved to Nashville in 1988. One of her first non-music jobs was as a chef at the then not-so-legendary Bluebird Cafe.

“I’ve never played around Nashville that much,” Richey said last week from her home in Goodlettsville, Tenn.. “I’d do a show on a record at the Belcourt Theatre, something like that. But I played the Bluebird and they still ask me to play there. And the Bluebird has gone through the roof because of that (hit ABC-TV “Nashville”) show. The Bluebird shows are selling out 15 minutes after they’re posted. Their audience is a lot of young people. But it’s always been a place for people from out of town, especially if they’re songwriters or into country music.”

Richey has always been a collaborative songwriter. Her new harmony-driven record features collaborations with Mike Henderson (“Come On,” and the gospel ballad “Take Me To The Other Side”), the underrated Dave Olney (“Love Is”), and Henrik Irgens, whom she worked with on the stand out track “I Will Wait.”

“Writing with other people is kind of my social side,” she explained. “I spend a lot of time alone. I’m happy to go to a movie by myself or hanging around the house. But getting together and writing with someone is very social. You talk about stuff you normally wouldn’t talk about when you’re writing a song. You go through a lot of layers of superficial stuff and plunge right into what is on your mind or what has happened to you. You have more personal conversations under the guise of songwriting. I’ve heard of people writing together through Skype, but that seems real weird to me.”

England is fertille ground for American folk musicians and singer-songwriters. Richey was traveling back and forth between Nashville and London for songwriting and performances. When Chrysalis offered her a publishing deal she decided to make a permanent move across the pond.

She settled in a woodsy area between Highgate and Crouch End.

Richey returned to Nashville because, “I could do better what I’m good at here than there.” In her English songwriting sessions she was matched up with people who write tracks and pop music. “I like that, but I’m not so good at it,” she explained. “I’d turn in songs and they’d say it was too songwritey, the lyric is too smart, something like that.”

The other development that happened while Richey was living overseas was the ascent of county-pop singer Taylor Swift. The young superstar has recently been skewed for writing confessional songs — but isn’t that something Richey and her peers like Mary Chapin-Carpenter and Lucinda Williams have been doing all along?

“It’s not new ground,” Richey said with a laugh. “Although nobody I’m hanging out with is talking about Taylor Swift. But today there is no escape from popular culture. I went through the line at the grocery store and there’s Vanity Fair with her on the cover talking about confessional stuff. I’m thinking, ‘Wow, really?’ There’s Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin. That’s where a lot of the inspiration comes from. Or you’re just making up wacky pop songs, which is fine, too.”

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