With her eagerly anticipated new CD, “The
Road to Bliss,” Cathy Richardson takes an extraordinary musical
journey and brings everyone along for the exhilarating ride. Already
hometown heroes in their native Chicago (voted Best Band in polls by
the Chicago Tribune and Fox News) this intriguing singer-songwriter
and her finely tuned bandmates are fixin’ to drive right into
your rock and roll heart.
In this self-produced recording, Richardson’s powerful, versatile
voice glides effortlessly from gorgeous to gritty and back again. She
often soars into the stratosphere with those remarkable pipes, but her
songs remain down-to-earth and always passionate. No one who listens
to “The Road to Bliss” will be surprised that Richardson
portrayed Janis Joplin in the Off-Broadway hit “Love, Janis”
and occasionally sits in with Big Brother
and the Holding Company, rendering those heart-wrenching songs to spine-tingling
The new CD’s theme is movin’ on—always to something
better. “You never know where the road of life is going to take
you,” Richardson says. “It’s full of twists and turns
and surprises, but you trust that if you follow your heart, and follow
the signs, it’s all gonna unfold and reveal itself and lead you
right where you need to be.” In a characteristically daring move,
she’s wrapped her musical concept in a package the likes of which
have not been seen since the Rolling Stones’ notorious Some Girls.
CD’s chipboard box (no “crappy jewel case,” she says)
opens into six panels of “road” photos, taken by Richardson,
of the kind of grand scenery—mountains, seas, rainbows—that
evokes yearning and big dreams. When you fully unfold the box, you’re
in the driver’s seat of a vintage car, complete with dashboard,
rearview mirror, and “steering wheel,” the CD itself. Open
the glove compartment—yes, it opens—and you’ll find
inside a detailed map of Road to Bliss’s psychic landscape, the
Why the elaborate
artwork? “It’s a return to album art,” says Richardson.
“I wanted to create a package that draws the listener into the
music and makes them part of it, in a way that stimulates all six senses.
You know, like the good old days.”
In this case, it’s art that reflects the caliber of the music.
The roots-, country- and blues-tinged songs are equally ambitious. “Miracle”
is an honest, upbeat look at envy; “Blindsided by Love,”
a duet with Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls, is a shimmering, hopeful
ballad; “I’ve Changed” is one of those raucous, so-true
anthems, reminiscent of the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme
Some Lovin’,” that seem to have existed from the beginning
of time (or rock ’n’ roll, anyway). “This Town,”
with an infectious slide guitar hook and potent lyrics like, “I’m
wavin’ one finger good-bye,” is a knock out punch directed
at local music critics who pick on local bands. “This Town”
has already caught the ears of Chicago’s WXRT Radio, who are giving
it multiple spins. These songs, along with eight others, convey emotions
that are all stops on the scary, bumpy, thrilling and beautiful highway
Track titles appear as “cities” on the booklet map. They’re
mostly along the main route, 444—a magical number, Richardson
believes—and surrounded by such towns and features as Saliersbury
(in honor of Emily Saliers), the Kristen Hall of Fame (Kristen Hall
co-wrote four tunes), the Janis River (no explanation necessary), and
Dolan Bog (artist Bill Dolan designed the package with Richardson).
Rabid fans can have a blast figuring out the map, though band members
are pretty easy: Breckenfeld Ridge for drummer Ed Breckenfeld, Hoekstra
Primate Sanctuary for guitarist Joel Hoekstra, and, of course, the mountain
range called Cathy Rocks.
Does she ever. Lucky for us we get to listen. This is car music like
you’ve never experienced before, and a trip in more ways than
one. Take the ride.