Category: kasey chambers

Single release: ‘The Campfire Song’ by Kasey Chambers & The Fireside Disciples

kaseyKasey Chambers is a national treasure – a singer-songwriter so exceptional that I reckon she should have her own theme park. In lieu of such a park, however, her fans can pay tribute by listening to her new music as soon as it’s released. So I shouldn’t be slightly late posting about her new single, ‘The Campfire Song’, but I am.

Chambers has released the song under the moniker ‘Kasey Chambers & The Fireside Disciples’. I’m going to presume that the three men in the band – Brandon Dodd, who has toured with Kasey over the last three years; Alan Pigram, a long-time family friend, fellow musician (from The Pigram Brothers) and Indigenous elder from Broome, WA; and her father, Bill Chambers – are her disciples.

Chambers’s sound has evolved with each album but it’s always true to her, and in a way that doesn’t alienate her fans. Lyrically, musically and in performance, she is one of the most exciting, compelling artists in the land. ‘The Campfire Song’ harkens to the roots of her sound yet it doesn’t sound like it could have come from an earlier album. She’s still evolving, and still exceptional.

Watch the video for ‘The Campfire Song’ on YouTube.

Pre-order the album:

Apple Music  |  iTunes  

‘The Campfire Song’ is taken from Chambers’s upcoming album, Campfire, due for release on 27 April ahead of a national tour.


Continue reading “Single release: ‘The Campfire Song’ by Kasey Chambers & The Fireside Disciples”

EP review: Ain’t No Little Girl by Kasey Chambers

Any day that contains the release of new music from Kasey Chambers is a magnificent day. The release of the EP Ain’t No Little Girl is also the start of a new era for Chambers, following surgery on her vocal cords. Her voice is different – and the most noticeable difference is that the insecurity that always infused even her most powerful songs is absent.
Lyrically, the title song contains the clue: ‘I ain’t afraid to give a damn and take it like a man’. Despite the word ‘man’, though, this is new music from one of the most extraordinary female singers in the land, and one of our most astute, musically and lyrically sophisticated singer-songwriters. Chambers’s breadth of experience and the depth of her talent are without much compare, and in case you were in any doubt it would be eliminated in that title track.
There are four tracks on this EP, which is a precursor to the album Dragonfly, which will be released during the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January 2017.
The first two tracks, ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ and ‘Talkin’ Baby Blues’ were produced by Paul Kelly; the second two, ‘If We Had a Child’ and ‘Only Child’, are in the hands of someone who has produced Chambers many times before: her brother, Nash.
The names of the songs suggest the theme: childhood and children. But that’s where the similarities end. ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ is a battle cry and a triumph. ‘Talkin’ Baby Blues’ is a companion piece of sorts to ‘Nullarbor Song’ (from Barricades & Brickwalls) and ‘Biggest Backyard’ (from Little Bird). On ‘If We Had a Child’ Chambers is joined by Keith Urban, and the two sound made to sing together. ‘Only Child’ is bluesy and raucous in the style Chambers has established on earlier releases.
The title track and ‘If We Had a Child’ will appear on Dragonfly but it makes no sense to wait until then to hear them. Chambers is one of those artists whose every release is significant. She has more than earned our attention, and any future plaudits that go her way will only confirm what is already clear: she is a superstar.
Ain’t No Little Girl is out now through Warner Music Australia.


Album review: Bittersweet by Kasey Chambers

It’s tempting to write a review of Kasey Chambers’s new album, Bittersweet, that is loaded with superlatives and not much else. Not because it’s a perfect album – if there even is such a thing – but because it’s her best album in a career full of truly exceptional albums. It may not be my favourite of her albums – yet – but anyone who knows her work could recognise that this album is a progression from the last (Little Bird) just as that album was a progression from the one before that and so on, back to the start: The Captain. Each album shows progression not just in the stories told – in a life unfolding through song, amongst other things – but in the way the songs are delivered and in how authoritative Kasey sounds when singing them.

Kasey has always produced albums that break your heart and then mend it, maybe because we can hear her breaking and mending her own heart over and over again. On this album, in the song, ‘I Would Do’, she makes the breaking explicit: ‘I’ll do it till a heart breaks/If that what it takes/Until my heart breaks/If that what it takes/Until my heart breaks/If that’s what it takes’. It takes until the title track, ‘Bittersweet’ – sung with Bernard Fanning – for the mending to become clear, and further still in ‘I’m Alive’, when she sings about being given another chance and having enough stories to fill a mansion. 

As an album, this collection of songs is possibly Kasey’s most cohesive since The Captain. Previous albums have contained extraordinary songs and some that weren’t ordinary, exactly, but just not extraordinary. Kasey’s bar is always set high and not all of her songs can make it, but they’re all worth listening to. That is true of Bittersweet, too, except that this album is not just cohesive but solid. There is a sense of Kasey delivering a message, and perhaps the key is in that final song.’I’m Alive’ – after a difficult time in her personal life (which fans will know about but which is only relevant to a review because it has shaped some of her lyrics), she is here, and not just alive but vibrant, defiant, creative and strong.  

This is the first of Kasey’s albums that have not been produced by her brother, Nash Chambers, and this is another progression. Not because Nash hasn’t been a great producer for her, but because the more steps Kasey takes towards believing that her monumental talent stands alone – that she does not need any family members to bolster it or coax it out of her – the better. She doesn’t need anyone else to bring her songs fully to life – she just needs to believe in herself more. Bittersweet sounds like a step – a leap, a bound – in that direction. For that reason, as well as because of the songs she gives us, it may become my favourite Kasey Chambers album yet. There is, of course, the remarkable, wonderful prospect that there will be new candidates for that title one day.

Bittersweet is out now through Warner Music Australia.

Album review: Wreck & Ruin by Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson

The temptation for artists as established as Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson – whether those artists are musicians, writers or filmmakers (or visual artists) – must be, at some stage, to rest on their laurels a bit. They have an audience who likes what they’ve done so far – why not just repeat that? It’s lazy, sure, but you can get by on that for a while. No one would blame either Kasey or Shane for doing that. Given the success of Rattlin’ Bones, their first joint release in 2008, and their individual achievements, cruising would be acceptable. But, of course, neither of them is lazy and neither courts complacency. Individually both of these singer-songwriters have consistently proved that they are not interested in that. They progress. Each solo album is a different proposition; each an exploration. They wouldn’t know creative stagnation if they fell into an ocean of it.

So here’s the newsflash: Wreck & Ruin is not Rattlin’ Bones Mk II. It is a different album – musically and lyrically – just as accomplished as its predecessor, but more nuanced. Where Rattlin’ Bones was more staccato in instruments and voice, there is a softness in Wreck & Ruin – even in the more bluegrassy tunes – which suggests that Kasey and Shane are, in all their dealings, gentle with each other. There is a touch of melancholy, too, but we can’t expect that the restlessness that comes with a forceful creative flow will produce permanent contentment. 

As befits a pair who have had four more years of playing together under their belts since their last album, vocally they sound more comfortable with each other. Their voices ebb and flow around each other, their combinations sounding so effortless that one can only imagine that they sing together every chance they get. Shane seems to have developed a warm croon to his voice that fits beautifully with Kasey’s tone. The album overall sounds romantic, even though the lyrics aren’t always. There is occasionally the odd – and rather touching – sound of two people yearning for each other while they’re in each other’s presence; two people who know each other well – who know the best and worst of each other – and always seek the best, so that is what they ultimately find. 
The songs seem to come in one of three types: hillbilly, wistful and biblical (and there is some crossover). To be completely one-dimensional about it, the hillbilly songs are ‘Wreck & Ruin’, ‘Dustbowl’, ‘Rusted Shoes’, ‘Flat Nail Joe’ and ‘Sick as a Dog’ (and, to be clear, I’m labelling them ‘hillbilly’ because at the end of one of them Shane yodels ‘hiiiillbilllly’). These sound like they were pure fun to record. The ‘wistful’ songs are ‘The Quiet Life’, ‘Familiar Strangers’, ‘Your Sweet Love’, ‘Up or Down’ and ‘Troubled Mind’. The biblical songs: ‘‘Til Death Do us Part’, ‘Adam and Eve’ and ‘Have Mercy on Me’.
Most of the songs are short and sharp, with most not lasting even 3 minutes. But they don’t need to. The message is delivered, the story told, the emotion conveyed. Brevity is what experience can bring a songwriter – they realise that they don’t need flourishes when a heartfelt word or chord does the job and that, in fact, flourishes just distract the listener from what the song is trying to achieve.

Kasey Chambers is one of our greatest songwriters, of any stripe. She is a folkloric chronicler of life, love and the human condition as it exists in Australia. Shane Nicholson is no slouch either, but where he complements Kasey in the duo is in his musicianship and ability to understand how instruments can be coaxed and cajoled to enhance a song and a voice (or voices). On a fundamental level, she understands how stories work in music and he understands how music works for stories. This kind of songwriting and performing partnership doesn’t come along very often. It is thrilling to have it documented once more, in Wreck & Ruin

Wreck & Ruin is out now through Liberation.

Kasey and Shane to release new album in September

It was with great excitement that I read a press release this morning announcing that Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson are putting out a new album on 7 September. Entitled Wreck & Ruin, it’s their second collaboration – the first was the hugely successful Rattlin’ Bones, which was released in 2008.

As I was sent the press release, I feel I can quote liberally from it … Said the pair, ‘Having been almost five years since we made Rattlin’ Bones we thought it was time to ‘Tempt Fate’ and challenge our marriage by making another album together!

‘We have both made solo albums in between but in the back of our minds we always knew we would end up making music together again.

‘The writing process fell into place easier than we had planned so we grabbed some musician friends and recorded us all jamming the songs on a farm for a week. Wreck & Ruin was born and gave us a chance to revisit the sounds of music that we love to make together where it can be “traditional” but not “conventional”.’

The cover artwork for Wreck & Ruin was created by UK-based Australian artist Kerry Evans.  The album is co-produced by Nash Chambers, Shane Nicholson and Kasey Chambers and was recorded at Foggy Mountain Studios, Nash’s studio on the NSW Central Coast.

The first single from the album, ‘Adam and Eve’, will be released on Monday 23 July. Suffice to say I’m about to pass out with excitement – Shane is a musical  genius and Kasey is, quite simply, one of the greatest singer-songwriters Australia has ever produced. I still can’t quite believe they make albums together, let alone are married to each other. As anyone who has seen them perform knows, it is also a true marriage of talents – and let’s hope they’re taking them on the road come September.

CD review: Storybook by Kasey Chambers

It look me quite a while to love this album – about ten listens, I reckon. That was probably because it’s not an album of Kasey’s original songs, but it’s still her, and now I love it all the same.
Storybook is a collection of new and old recordings of other people’s songs – if you’re a die-hard fan who’s bought all of Kasey’s singles and EPs, you’re going to have her versions of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colours’, Paul Kelly’s ‘Everything’s Turning to White’, James McMurtry’s ‘Too Long in the Wasteland’, Patty Griffin’s ‘Top of the World’ and and Fred Eaglesmith’s ‘Water in the Fuel’. But you won’t have the newer recordings, which are actually more impressive than the earlier efforts because this album clearly shows us how Kasey has matured and improved as a singer. She is a strong singer who can also reveal vulnerability in the turn of a note – as she does in her version of Suzanne Vega’s ‘Luka’, ‘Everything’s Turning to White’ and Matthew Ryan’s ‘Guilty’. Interestingly, while the lyrics of ‘Orphan Girl’, a Gillian Welch tune, suggest vulnerability, there isn’t much to be heard in Kasey’s voice – perhaps because she’s singing it with her husband, Shane Nicholson – or, maybe, to him.
Shane is one of several musical guests on the album. Jimmy Barnes is almost unrecognisable in his lower register on the Townes van Zandt song ‘If I Needed You’. Paul Kelly, a previous collaborator, does not sing on the song he penned but on the Hank Williams number ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’.
The only song I regularly skip over is the cover of John Prine’s ‘Leave the Lights On’, but no doubt other people love it, musical taste being a subjective thing. The standout tracks for me are Gram Parsons’s ‘Return of the Grievous Angel’, ‘Luka’, ‘Guilty’ and the Nanci Griffith track ‘I Wish it Would Rain’, which Kasey sings with Ashleigh Dallas. The other tracks are perfectly great, though – for the curious, there are also covers of Lucinda Williams (‘Happy Woman Blues’) and Steve Earle (‘Nothing but a Child’, sung with the Lost Dogs).
For Kasey fans, this is obviously a must. For other punters, it’s a great collection of country or country-esque (or pop, in Lauper’s case) songs that acts somewhat as an introduction to the genre and its range of songwriters and subjects. Kasey has always been an excellent interpreter of other people’s songs, and those skills are evident here. She is one of those singers who becomes the song – she inhabits the story in the song and conveys it to her listeners. This is her job, of course, as a performer but I often reflect on the fact that very few performers understand the unspoken contract as well as she does. She understands what her audience needs, and she delivers it, without ever compromising what she loves and what she wants to do. With Storybook, that is as true as it is of everything else Kasey Chambers does.
Storybook is out now through Essence/Liberation.

Book review: Kasey Chambers

Kasey Chambers is a natural storyteller. Her gigs always feature a fair amount of chatter in between songs, and usually she tells stories about her life. So if you’ve been to a few of Kasey’s shows, you’ll know some of her stories. That is not to say, though, that you’ll have heard them all – and, thus, for any Kasey fan, her new book, A Little Bird Told Me …, is a must.

The book is written with Jeff Apter, who is an experienced biographer (of Keith Urban, and Neil and Tim Finn, amongst others) and co-writer. Apter’s challenge would obviously have been to capture Kasey’s distinctive voice – that voice in which she tells stories at shows, not the one with which she sings (which is also, obviously, distinctive). To a certain degree, he’s got it, although I sense it has been tempered a bit in an effort to appeal to a less hard-core-fan readership – and fair enough: they want the book to sell. It’s possibly only people like me – who have heard some of the stories, and for whom Kasey is such a powerful cultural figure – who’ll want more.

Certainly, for Kasey fans there is a lot of great information here about what was happening in Kasey’s life during the creation of her albums, and there are stories behind some of the songs. I would have loved to know more of this stuff – the stories behind the songs – because for me Kasey’s songs are so important and enduring that those stories deserve to be told.

What could never have been in the book – because Kasey is the narrator and she doesn’t get to say it about herself – is a sense of gravitas, I guess: the sense that this is a really important story in Australian cultural history. Because Kasey really is important – she is one of our most enduring and successful songwriters; her oeuvre to date encompasses true country as well as pop, rock and folk, and is authentic in a way many songwriters never are. But perhaps that book is still coming, and it should be written by someone else; maybe it’s going to be someone’s PhD.

In the meantime, I hope that some people who aren’t yet hard-core Kasey fans will read this book and feel inspired to listen more closely to her music. I hope they’ll realise that she’s a woman – a person – who manages a rare feat: she combines an intensively creative life with a robust family life. That feat, that balance, is probably what I took away from this book the most – that and the fact that she is a passionate person. She is passionate about music; about her relationships with her parents, brother, husband and sons, and her best friend Worm; about the landscape of her childhood and the communities she has lived in. It is, sadly, rare that public figures express passion, but in performance and in this book she does not shy away from it. It’s infectious, and it’s truly lovely. Just like her music.

A Little Bird Told Me … by Kasey Chambers, with Jeff Apter, published by HarperCollins Australia 2011
*Please consider buying this book from your local independent bookseller*