Kasey Chambers: Dragonfly

Photo: Penny Lane (Sacks & Co.)

Australian roots artist Kasey Chambers creates a stunning statement, bold and big and essential, with Dragonfly.

Kasey Chambers


Label: Essence/MGM
US Release Date: 2017-06-02
UK Release Date: 2017-01-27

For her latest album Dragonfly, Australian roots artist Kasey Chambers needed some guest appearances, two bands, two recording sessions, and two discs to make her statement. She didn't succumb to excess; every inch of that reach stretches somewhere important. Chambers hides nothing, sparing no emotion but also not holding back on her humor or her strength or her stylistic flexibility. On a disc that struggles with history, race, and faith, Chambers pulls on Christianity while staring at apostasy and falls in love while counting her losses. It's a stunning statement, bold and big and essential.

There's a sense in which the two discs take different approaches. The first one, produced by Paul Kelly, fits more in a country mold. The second, produced by Chambers's brother Nash Chambers, gets a little bluesier and has some more swamp in it. The loose division falls apart, though. Chambers covers too much genre ground in too many places to get pinned down. There's a little Nashville, but a little Appalachia, but a little old-timey stuff, but a little, well, all of it. Ballads and rockers and pickers.

Her clear vision holds it all together. Nothing feels scattershot, although both the traditional “Satellite” and the Keith Urban shared “If We Had a Child” mark noticeable shifts, the former for its sound moving toward CMA territory and the latter for Urban's sudden and familiar presence on what has been such a uniquely Chambers vision.

That vision, while unique, remains precise in its breadth. The roll of the title track offers some sweetness mixed with some background pain. That's hardly the central image of a de-centered storyteller showing what she has. The funny and disarming “Talkin' Baby Blues” reads like a biography but gives way to less immediate but more emotional moments. Torch song “Ain't No Little Girl” (present here in two forms) sounds like a defiant, defining anthem, but Chambers can't be circumscribed by a single act.

The scope of Dragonfly alone, including both personal work and character studies, would make it worth a listen, revelatory as an artist's approach to saying all the things. That alone wouldn't make it essential. Chambers nails her writing on each song, and her phrasing and delivery make her precise phrases work. Opener “Pompeii” relies on a traditional structure, but Chambers uses cool vocals and surprising lyrics (the Caesar who died for the working man turns out to be Julius – but it works). The relatively spare song sets up a double-disc's worth of listening by pointing out that attention will be rewarded.

But almost any of these songs could have served that purpose (even if it's hard not to think of the disc opening with just this strumming). It's all part of a well-crafted but not overly mannered kaleidoscope. Somewhere in the midst or, better, everywhere in the sum, is both Chambers the artist and Chambers the person, inextricable to a stranger. What Chambers said in Jonestown might get us close to a vision statement: “Don't you see all that I am is all I'm believing.” She has a strong center, and it holds, and at times it feels like two discs might not even be enough.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.