[9 October 2000]
Kasey Chambers sounds Old Nashville. She hails from Australia, and is being touted as a potential major country music star. The kiss of death, you say? Well, this recording is a very impressive release by a young woman who may soon, along with Kelly Willis, hold the co-throne of queens of female country.
The originals like The Carter Family sang from the heart and it showed. Ms. Chambers, in all her pierced glory, writes and sing from her heart, a heart that seems as big as the areas of the outback where she grew up.
Her story is a fascinating one. Apparently, her childhood was spent as an Australian nomad far from traditional “civilization.” She learned to play guitar incident to her many evenings singing country classics with her family by the campfire. Indeed, the years weaned on the classics have served Ms. Chambers very, very well.
The song “Cry Like a Baby” lays it on the line for Kasey and is a perfect opener. The influences of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons are obvious here, combining simple, sincere lyrics with a sweet Grand Ole Opry vibrato that makes its mark. “This Flower” might be compared to compositions that used to be sung with just a big jumbo J-200 Gibson acoustic and a lot of emotion in the Old Nashville. “You Got the Car” has a jangly, pop/country/rock feel very similar to the sound of the great pair Foster & Lloyd if their songs were sung by a woman. “These Pines” is another powerful acoustic with vocal number. “Don’t Talk Back” is evidence of this young woman’s mastery of the AB structure: the song moves through its verses and choruses, maintaining a repetitive bite without sounding samey. “Mr. Baylis” is another nugget of songwriting, moving at a reasonable pace until it giddyups at the chorus. Nice.
Both “Last Hard Bible” and the closer “We’re Gall Gonna Die Someday” have unique acapella vocal intros that capture the sweetness and the body of Chambers’ voice: it is feminine, but not thin, with a passion that gives it a richness.
Listen to her cross talk right before “We’re All…” when she explodes into the track. The tape doesn’t lie. That is one good voice.
The real deal is this Kasey.
Ms. Chambers has won every major country award in Australia. Her material is well written, and her lyrics point to a woman with a strong personality, and a certain self actualization uncommon for an artist this early in her career.
The recording will appeal to the rock/country/pop/No Depression crowd. But it will appeal to the mainstream country audience too. Because of that, my educated guess is that Chambers will be a star in America, and rightfully so, for all the correct reasons.