Australia's Kasey Chambers was one of her country's most successful commercial artists, emerging in the late 1990s with a smash album that crossed over in both the Country and Pop charts, followed by several chat-topping albums over the next decade. Chambers also found a fan base in America, primarily in the booming Americana and Adult-Alt styles. Her later records, especially those recorded with her husband Shane Nicholson, have been more resolutely grounded in less-commerical rural styles, delving into the rugged folk style of Appalachia. Here's a quick look at her work...




Discography - Albums

Kasey Chambers "The Captain" (Asylum-Nashville, 1999)
(Produced by Nash Chambers)

I'm sure that when this record came out, Ms. Chambers must have tired of people comparing her (vocally) to Iris DeMent and Lucinda Williams... In retrospect, hearing her later, smoothed-out rock-pop efforts, you kinda have to admit she was actively courting for such simplistic comparisons. Anyway, here's the deal with this album: it sounds nice. The arrangements are clean, simple, well performed singer-songwriter country, played with a full band that sounds like it knows what its doing. Chambers has a good voice, and clear powerful delivery, and she gets the vibe right. Where it falls short is in the songcrafting -- or rather, in the overabundance of it. These songs sound nice, but I find it hard to get a fix on what any of them are actually about... The verses are thick and meandering, the choruses are too self-consciously intellectual and wordy; Chambers lacks, perhaps, the common touch or a feel for the "simplicity" that makes a good country song great. Later, on Barricades and Brick Walls, Chambers aggressively edged into Lilith Fair-ish pop terrain, clearly trolling for a little soundtrack action on pop-ridden teen TV shows like Dawson's Creek or Gilmore Girls, and that's where she finally lost me. Taken by itself, though, this first album is consistently engaging -- a bit calculated and contrived, but nice to listen to. Plus, it ain't bad "Americana" for an Aussie!


Kasey Chambers "Barricades And Brickwalls" (Warner, 2002)
(Produced by Nash Chambers)

Alt.country with a tinge of Lilith Fair singer-songwriter poetics and profundity. This album has some nice songs on it, although her vocal range -- a mix of Lucinda Williams-ish growling and Rosie Flores chirps -- doesn't hold up over the course of an entire album. Paul Kelly, Buddy Miller and the mighty Lucinda all drop in for guest spots. It's okay, though a little slick and predictable.


Kasey Chambers "Wayward Angel" (Warner, 2004)
(Produced by Nash Chambers)


Kasey Chambers "Carnival" (Warner, 2006)
(Produced by Nash Chambers)


Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson "Rattlin' Bones" (Sugar Hill, 2008)
(Produced by Nash Chambers)


Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill & The Little Hillbillies "Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill And The Little Hillbillies" (Liberation Music, 2009)
A childrens music album, accompanied by a book called Little Kasey Chambers And The Lost Music. "Poppa Bill" is her father, Australian country musician Bill Chambers.


Kasey Chambers "Little Bird" (Sugar Hill/Essence Music, 2011)
(Produced by Kasey Chambers)

Another strong set from Australian folk/pop twangster Kasey Chambers. Her subtle explorations of religious issues continue on this album, though is a less overt fashion than on her recent record with husband Shane Nicholson... For listeners who are open to spiritual thought, her songs are melodically and lyrically inventive and free of the cliches and conventions of the traditional gospel canon. Also, this record isn't all religiously-oriented - the secular stuff is good, too. The title track is a clever, teen-sounding pop tune where a girl muses about the ways she could dress up or change who she is or how she looks to get the attention of a would-be partner -- then swiftly declares that she doesn't need the aloof approval of her judgmental heartthrob to make her life complete. If only a song like this could get as much airplay and attention as the endless sexually-retrograde pop hits of Miley Cyrus and Co. Plenty of twang on here, too, for folks who remember Chambers as an Americana icon... with texture and depth to spare! Definitely worth checking out.


Kasey Chambers "Storybook" (Sugar Hill, 2012)
An album of Country/Americana cover songs, with classics by Steve Earle, John Prine, Townes Van Zandt, Gillian Welch, Hank Williams, Lucinda Willams and others...


Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson "Wreck & Ruin" (Sugar Hill, 2012)
(Produced by Kasey Chambers, Nash Chambers & Shane Nicholson)

It's thrilling to come across one of those albums where an artist -- or in this case, a duo -- comes fully into their own, making music with such ease and such joy that the results can only be described as magical. Chambers and Nicholson have done good work before, but this record is really special, one of the most enjoyable releases of the year. The songs are a potent set of all-original material working in a variety of styles, ably recalling Appalachian ballads, Antebellum hymns, jug band blues, aching heartsongs and a dash of contemporary folk. Both singers seem so comfortable together that in song after song they summon exactly the right emotional tone -- Nicholson is a solid, soulful harmonist, while Chambers confidently inhabits common ground with Iris DeMent and Emmylou Harris, both in terms of timbre and artistic presence. This is a rich, evocative album that holds up to repeated auditions, and has been in rotation at Casa de Sixpack for quite a while now. Highly recommended.




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