On one of the songs on her solo debut, Kasey Chambers sings about living that "southern kind of life." Try way south, as in Southern Hemisphere, as in New South Wales. That's because, despite her authentic all-American country sound, Chambers has spent her life in Australia playing music with her family in a group called the Dead Ringer Band. The Captain, released last year Down Under, has already gone platinum there. And it's easy to see why. Chambers sings in a voice that combines Iris DeMent's open tone, a bit of Lucinda Williams' vocal phrasing, and Julie Miller's spirituality. Miller and husband Buddy both guest here.
Songs like "Last Hard Bible" reveal the influence of a lifetime spent in the outback singing Carter Family and Hank Williams songs. On the opening "Cry Like a Baby," Chambers sings about being a fish out of water: "I'm not much like my generation. Their music only hurts my ears." This music doesn't come close to hurting my ears. Tracks like "Don't Talk Back" back up Chambers' pretty voice with great playing. And just when you think Chambers is running out of steam toward the end of The Captain, she closes the record with "We're All Gonna Die Someday," which, despite the title, actually lightens the mood considerably and musically quotes The Beverly Hillbillies theme.
So if you're not sick of everything Australian after the Sydney Olympics, Kasey Chambers' distinctly American sound is definitely worth a listen.
Warner Brothers Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019-6908