Tag Archives: Australian country music

Album Review: Kasey Chambers–Dragonfly

Rating: 8/10

Kasey Chambers is a household name in Australia; she’s released eleven albums, and she’s been winning awards and selling millions of records for years. Still, her name is somewhat obscure in the States, and that’s honestly probably because she wouldn’t have that type of mainstream success here–her music ranges from more traditional, rootsy material to country rock to folk rock to the occasional country pop song to some blues, all of which are represented on this record, but the commonality in all of it is that it’s quite unpolished. Even the more pop-leaning offerings aren’t pop enough for the American mainstream, and so she remains as unknown to some as many of her independent American counterparts despite her success in her home country. It wasn’t until 2015’s excellent Bittersweet that I discovered Chambers and her music, and I’ve since found a lot to enjoy throughout her discography. She’s back now with a double album, which is always a risky undertaking, but for the most part, this is a strong one, and though there’s some filler, it’s minimal.

Disc 1: “The Sing Sing Sessions”

I separate this into two discs because this isn’t just a long album, it’s two albums with completely different producers that make a consistent, cohesive record despite themselves. I almost hesitate to rate this as one project, and the only reason I do is because you must buy them together. This first disc, dubbed “The Sing Sing sessions,” is the stronger of the two and was produced by Paul Kelly, another Australian household name. ON its own, I’d give it an 8.5 at least, maybe a 9.

This disc opens in fine fashion with the banjo that backs many of Kasey’s songs on the catchy, infectious “Pompeii.” I should mention that Kasey Chambers underwent nodule surgery between Bittersweet and the recording of this album, and her voice is definitely stronger. The new depth comes out in full force on the empowering, angry “Ain’t No Little Girl,” easily one of the standouts of this whole thing. If you single out one track of twenty, make it this one, and if you can afford two, “Jonestown” is the other crown jewel. This one tells a great story of a town where people take refuge from hardship and discrimination. It’s an excellent piece of songwriting, and it’s also beautiful melodically. I mentioned the sonic variety of Chambers, and it speaks to her talent that she can deliver equally great performances on a traditional song like this and the rocking, bluesy “Ain’t NO Little Girl.” She explores faith in many of her songs as well, and this album is no different; “Golden Rails” is a fun little gospel-infused tune that may not stand out on the first listen, but you’ll keep coming back to it for its catchy production and lyrics. Kasey also has a knack for story songs, and “Behind the Eyes of Henri Young” captures perfectly the emotion in the chilling tale of a seventeen-year-old boy who went to Alcatraz for petty theft and ended up dying there after being mistreated in prison. There’s also “Romeo & Juliet” featuring Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance, which tells this story in a new, fresh way, although the lyrics can be admittedly hard to understand at first, and I wish Vance had been given more to do than just echoing chambers in the verses. Kasey also tells her own humorous story in “Talkin’ Baby Blues,” complete with running away from home at thirteen and dating a man who was “barely old enough to vote,” all while putting everything she felt down in song. “Summer Pillow” touches the slightly more pop leanings of Chambers, delivering a nice heartbreak song–“isn’t that life, to give me that, for just a minute and then take it back. Isn’t that love, to make me see everything that never will belong to me.” “You Ain’t worth Suffering for” is also basically pop rock, and this is the only moment of filler on this first disc, although it’s grown on me a little. Mainly, it’s the production here that doesn’t do it for me, and overall, this first half–well, eleven of the twenty, so slightly more than half–is quite strong and does a good job showcasing all the different styles explored by Kasey Chambers over the years. but it’s always a risk extending things and going for quantity, so it’s with that in mind that we head into Disc 2.

Disc 2: “The Foggy Mountain Sessions”

Disc 2, produced by Kasey’s brother and longtime producer Nash Chambers, opens just as strongly as the first, if not more so, with the excellent “Shackle and Chain.” With its call-and-response style lyrics and sparse production, it’s more akin to some of the material from Bittersweet,–which production wise was quite different from other Chambers albums–so if that’s the Kasey Chambers you were looking for, you’ll find more to appreciate on this half of the record. There’s the ever-building, almost Gothic “If I Died,” which sees Chambers issuing out some last requests–“If I died on the bayou, and the sun is goin’ down, would you float me like Moses, so they don’t put me in the cold, hard ground?” It’s got some very nice production which really makes the song, and I think Nash Chambers shines brightest on this track. There are also two great collaborations on this half; one is a banjo-driven gospel song called “NO Ordinary Man” featuring great harmonies from Harry Hookey, Vika Bull, and Linda Bull, and the other is a nice duet with Keith Urban called “If we Had a Child.” The latter has the same problem as the Foy Vance collaboration, however–Keith Urban’s contributions consist of nothing more than harmony and echoing Kasey, and I’d have liked to have heard more from him. The album closer is another version of “Ain’t no Little Girl,” this one called the “FM Lounge Version,” and basically, it boils down to being a subdued version of the song. I prefer the angry version, but both are nice, and both stand out and manage to sound unique, and it’s interesting to have two versions of the same song from two different producers which still serve to unite this whole record.

Disc 2, however, does have some filler. I would say that this second disc is a more consistent record production wise, and therefore, when you do hear the more country pop songs, they stick out on this half of the album. The lyrics in the title track and “satellite” are also pretty weak, and so for multiple reasons, these two just seem like filler on a twenty-track project. I love the production of “Annabelle,” but the lyrics here leave me wanting more too. I feel like it’s trying to tell a great story, but I’m just not getting it somehow. If I’m rating disc 2 by itself, it’s still a solid album, and it probably gets a 7.5.


People say that double albums always have too much filler, and I’d have to say this one does have a little. However, I wouldn’t say that Kasey Chambers made a mistake in releasing two separate discs because each disc represents a distinct style in production. I do think the first is stronger, but if you trim this down to traditional album length, ten to twelve songs, you leave out some good stuff, as well as possibly making the songs not flow as easily into each other being from two different producers. If you trim this down to fifteen songs, you have an excellent album, so maybe it’s a bit long at twenty, but again, it’s not your traditional double album with the different producers and styles, so I’m not sure that would flow as well either. As it is, we have a two-disc, twenty-track offering from Chambers, and for the most part, it’s very strong. It showcases a wide range of sounds, so there’s something here for everyone. The songwriting is solid throughout, and overall, I really enjoyed this record. Definitely recommend this both as a nice place to begin with Kasey Chambers and as a solid addition to her discography.

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Female Fridays: Featuring Kasey Chambers

Well, I was introduced to Kasey Chambers when Josh at Country Perspective reviewed her latest album, Bittersweet, in August. A day later, I was
reviewing it myself and now I am here to feature Australia’s best-kept secret.

How You Might Know Kasey

Most probably won’t know her; I didn’t know her before I read a review.


From a 2014 interview on recording her album Bittersweet live:

There’s something to be said about that, particularly in this style of music. Maybe if you’re making dance tracks or something, I get that the layering is part of the process and that is probably a positive thing in that aspect. But playing this sort of music I think there’s something to be said about capturing a moment. That’s what people relate to when they hear you live and I want people to hear who I really am live. I don’t want to go in and sing the songs 30 times over to make sure I get the vocal perfectly and then put auto-tune on and do all those things, which means that you get some dodgy moments but it’s real. I want it to be real.

And just by being “real,” Kasey Chambers has been a platinum-selling, award-winning artist in Australia for fifteen years. Born June 4, 1976, from Mount Gambier, the daughter of Australian country singer Bill Chambers, Kasey grew up around music. Early in her career, she was a member of the Dead Ringer Band, along with her family. After going solo in 1999, she released her first album, The Captain, to both critical acclaim and commercial success. Mixing bluegrass, traditional country, and roots rock, Kasey has gone on to sell millions of solo albums and win numerous awards. She has released seven solo albums to date, including Storybook, an album of covers from other artists. Chambers has also produced two albums with her husband, fellow Australian singer-songwriter Shane Nicholson. After Nicholson and Chambers separated in 2013, Kasey changed direction with Bittersweet. Instead of her longtime producer, brother Nash Chambers, Kasey chose American Producer Nick Didea, partly upon Nash’s suggestion. Instead of her normally featured guitar, Kasey chose a banjo to back much of Bittersweet, and the result was her best album to date. Since my introduction to Kasey, when this album was released in the U.S., I have been catching up on her music. From country to rock to bluegrass, I have found much music to enjoy. In Australia, she’s a household name, and we shouldn’t be missing out on her music here in America.

What Kasey Brings to Country Music

I changed this section a little for Kasey because her music doesn’t get sent to radio in the States. In Australia, she’s had commercial success. So I want to focus on making Kasey Chambers fans here in the U.S. She’s known in Australia for her incredible voice. Like Ashley Monroe, when Kasey sings, you stop and listen. When I first heard “Oh Grace,” the opening track on Bittersweet, it was her voice that captured my attention. She has a raw quality when she sings. Her writing has the same raw honesty about it; often she discusses God and whether or not He is real and can indeed save us. I chose her quote above because this is the best explanation of the Kasey I know and love: she’s “real.” I don’t know a better way to explain it than this. Finally, whether you enjoy country, rock, or bluegrass, you will find a Kasey Chambers track you like–she truly has created an “evolution” of the country sound.

Tracks I Recommend

Since Kasey has so many albums, I recommend just listening and finding one you like. Instead of posting specific songs, I’ll link what I consider to be her best albums.


Wreck and Ruin [with Shane Nicholson]

Wayward Angel

Album Review: Kasey Chambers–Bittersweet

Rating: 10/10

First of all, I want to give credit to Josh Schott of
Country Perspective
because until he reviewed this album yesterday, I had never listened to Kasey Chambers. I’d only heard the name and knew her to be an Australian country singer. Now, it says a lot about the quality of this album that after one day, I have listened to it and am here reviewing it. Kasey Chambers is a name you should know, and you can expect a future Female Friday fully devoted to her. But for now, let’s focus on her latest studio album, Bittersweet, which recently became available everywhere (Australia has had it since 2014.)

The album opens with “Oh Grace,” which almost exclusively features a banjo and Kasey’s remarkable voice. Here, Kasey sings as a man asking a woman, Grace, to marry him. He is poor and has nothing to offer her but love, but says that all he has is “yours for eternity, if I make you my wife.” It’s nice to hear a banjo used for good and not evil; rather than being a pop song with banjo added to pretend to be country, this is a country song where a banjo drives the beat. “Is God Real?” finds Kasey struggling with the question and deciding that she’ll pray to Him anyway. The concept of God is discussed throughout this album, and it’s refreshing and honest to hear, regardless of your views on the matter. “Wheelbarrow” is probably the most intriguing song on the album, and the bluesy instrumentation blends nicely with the lyrics and Chambers’s vocals to make it catchy. In this song, there is a whole new side of Chambers’s voice than the softer one presented on “Oh Grace,” and it’s hard to say which style suits her voice better.

“I Would Do” is a love song listing all the things Kasey would do for her man. I love the opening line: “Everybody plays the fool, I am no exception to the rule.” “Hell of a Way To Go” is a nice country rock song about dying of a broken heart. Next is “House on a Hill,” a beautiful song where Kasey sings with her father, fellow country singer Bill Chambers, about a house that is falling apart and about to be torn down. “It’s been through it all, and there’s cracks in the walls, they may as well just take me down too”–what a great line.

“Stalker” comes next, and after the darkness of “House on a Hill,” it works. It is a fun, upbeat song literally about being someone’s stalker. The lyrics can only be described as disturbing. On my first listen, it was extremely creepy. On my second listen, it was hilarious. I like to think Kasey put this on the album solely for shock value and/or to creep out everyone she knew–if your friend wrote this, you would sincerely hope it wasn’t meant for you. “Heaven or Hell” is one of my early favorites on the album; it deals with where we go when we die and also speaks to hypocrites, saying that our deeds will all come out one day. More excellent songwriting is present here–“Clever little liar with a righteous tongue, reputation to uphold. One of these days you’re gonna have to come out of the lies you’ve told.” The melody is catchy too, and the song is saved from being judgmental as well because she speaks to herself in the last verse, saying she’ll have to change her ways and “one of these days, you’re gonna have to get down on your knees and pray.” It’s like a Kacey Musgraves song but less confrontational.

“Bittersweet,” the album’s title track, is a duet with fellow Australian singer Bernard Fanning. Their voices work well together in this song as they speculate on their former love and whether they should get back together. I can’t say enough about the excellent songwriting on this album, and “Too Late To Save Me” gives us more of it. There is something so honest about a song that opens like this: “They hear me cry, they hear me roar, they call me late, they call me whore.” It’s a song about a prostitute trying to cope with her life and wondering if God can still save her. Again, the banjo drives the beat of this rocking song and the instrumentation goes well with the lyrics. “Christmas Day” is another song with a religious theme; here Kasey tells the story of Mary and Joseph from a more romantic perspective. It is less a Christmas song and more a country love song, and it works very well on the album. Bittersweet closes with “I’m Alive,” a bluegrass song where the banjo that backed many of the songs basically takes over. It’s a celebratory song that sees Kasey coming out on top and thankful to be alive after hard times. She mentions that she “drank like a bitch” and “made it through the hardest fucking year,” which again adds to the honesty of the album. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard “whore” and “bitch” uttered in a country album, and there’s something very real about it that is missing in much of today’s country. I’m not saying you have to say things like that to be real, but their presence proves that what we’re hearing from Kasey Chambers is indeed real songwriting coming from her perspective rather than polished-up radio hits that tell us little more about the actual artist than that they want to sell records.

This is a fantastic album, and Kasey Chambers is a name you should be familiar with. She’s Australia’s hidden gem, and this album proves it. As I said earlier, it should tell you a lot about the quality of this music that I found time to review it within one day of ever listening to a Kasey Chambers song.

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