Only going up

Blues-rock guitarist Kelly Richey to play Oddbody’s

By Justin Kreitzer

Photo: Kelly Richey plays Oddbody’s Saturday, Dec. 19; photo: Sonya Ziegler

Cincinnati-based veteran blues-rock guitarist Kelly Richey is set to release a new album early next year titled, Shakedown Soul. It will be Richey’s 16th album in a career spanning 35 years. In anticipation of her new album, Richey will bring her energetic live show to the Gem City once again with a performance at Oddbody’s Music Room Dec. 19. The Doug Hart Band and The Beaumonts are also on the bill.

Dayton City Paper spoke with Richey to inquire about her new album, her Music For Change program and more.

During your decades-long music career you have released several live albums. What does performing live mean to you?

Kelly Richey: Playing live is a passion that I’ve had since the day I got my hands on my very first guitar. I took my guitar to school, to church, out with friends; literally, my guitar never left my side. After recording my first two studio albums I felt like they lacked the intensity and passion I generated on stage. I wanted to capture that energy … The resulting album was powerful … I enjoy the pressure of performing live and capturing the magic as it happens. There’s something about [playing] live that doesn’t happen in the studio because you only get one take and you need to make it count in ways that the studio doesn’t force an artist to do.

Are there any lyrical themes or concepts that unify the songs on Shakedown Soul? 

KR: Yes! This past year has been my best year as an artist and it’s been a year of tremendous transformation and the songs on my new album reflect the journey. I made a series of changes in the way I approach music and my career that have opened up the doors for a whole new level of creativity and sonic experimentation. In early 2015, I decided to switch rhythm sections and I began aggressively developing a new solo show using my electric guitar, looper and beats. The solo show pushed me to write and grow in new and exciting ways. The new band has presented me with the freshest take on my music since I first started playing! I find that my previous records were fairly straightforward, heavy, blues-based rock, and my new album blends in elements that give depth to the sound. It’s allowed me to be extremely vulnerable and write what was really inside, give it to my band, and quite frankly, be blown away by what they’ve added. The first song I wrote for the record was a song titled, “Love.” I find so many things disturbing in our world today and this is one of those songs where I grabbed the guitar and 10 minutes later a song was complete. I kept hearing a pulsating groove with simple lyrics, and then knowing that the world is so on edge right now; I found myself feeling helpless, wondering what could be done and an “aha” moment” hit—love doesn’t cost a dime and it’s the single most powerful tool any of us have! “Afraid To Die” is about getting sober and the many personal layers that have to be dealt with to remain that way.

The new album is more experimental, with stomping electronic drums and even DJ scratching. What was your inspiration for the album? 

KR: I first heard R.L. Burnside around 2004, and absolutely fell in love with blues records produced with modern sounds. Blues meets hip-hop—I was sold! When I got turned on to my current drummer, Tobe Donohue, I heard him DJ and I loved what he did and he was hip to [Burnside’s] work … so we both meshed on that. I had just connected with bassist Rikk Manning, who lives in Dayton and I heard excellent things about his playing. Once the three of us got together it was silly crazy. There was chemistry during that rehearsal that you can’t fake; you either have it or you don’t, and we clearly saw that it was there. I’m very proud of it, as I feel it is my best work to date.

In addition to performing, you also started the Music for Change program. Briefly describe the program’s mission and how it has inspired your music.  

KR: I became an artist on tour for the Cincinnati Arts Association in 2003, and was shocked to witness music programs in public schools start to vanish. There are a number of schools that have only one music teacher that floats between multiple schools. When I grew up, music and art were electives, but it was unimaginable that they would ever vanish! I’m dyslexic, so music has been not only something I love and have a tremendous amount of passion for, it taught me how to learn in my own style. Music also gave me a voice and a means by which to express myself. Without music, I honestly do not know where I would be today. Music matters and it’s not only a universal language, it’s a unifying force. Quite frankly, I think we need all we can get!

Kelly Richey will perform Saturday, Dec. 19 at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Rd. in Dayton. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door or $10 in advance for patrons 18 and up. For more information, please visit or

Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at

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