In the mid '90s, Kim Richey
was at the head of the Nashville-based country-folk class that included Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kathy Mattea. Since then she's been mostly grinding out the publishing game, which makes Chinese Boxes
, her first album in five years, a modest event. With a voice like Aimee Mann soundchecking on an Ohio riverbank (Richey hails from Dayton), songs too smart for cheap spiritualism and harpsichord, mellotron, vibes and sugar-packet percussion, Richey isn't cutting demos for the more glamorous. Aided by producer Giles Martin (son of Sir George), she guides her confessional style through the AAA thickets into a wide and catchy clearing that should draw in indie acoustic-heads, contemporary folkies and country expatriates.