Archive for the Kasey Chambers Category

Best of 2010: 9-7

Posted in Jason and the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg, Josh Ritter, Kasey Chambers, Top 21 of 2010 on December 28, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

#9 – Halcyon Times by Jason & The Scorchers

If People. Places. Things. by Drunk on Crutches was my favorite surprise of 2010, then Halcyon Times by Jason & The Scorchers may have been my most anticipated album of the year.  You see, prior to this release, it had been 14 years since an album carried the Scorchers’ name.  Front man Jason Ringenberg had remained active with his solo career and Farmer Jason persona, but most people thought this hugely influential band (The Scorchers were mixing punk and country years before Uncle Tupelo… and they did it in the heart of Nashville) had run its course.  A lifetime achievement award reunited the group in 2008, and this album followed two years later.

Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges are the only two original members involved in this record, but there’s no mistaking this is a Jason & The Scorchers disc.  Ringenberg’s distinctive vocal twang and Hodges’ revved up riffs were always the signature of the band, and both are present in spades on tunes like the album opening “Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners” and the nostalgic “Golden Days.”  What makes this one really stand out, however, is the sense of maturity present in the album’s quieter moments.  The coal mining anthem “Beat on the Mountain” and the working man’s lament “Mother of Greed” lend a little gravitas to the proceedings.

Jason & The Scorchers: Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners (Buy Album)

#8 – Little Bird by Kasey Chambers

OK.  I’m cheating a little by including this one (It isn’t the first time).  As is her usual practice, Kasey Chambers has released her new CD Little Bird in her native Australia several months before releasing it in the US.  This strategy gives her the chance to properly tour and promote her album at home (where she is a huge star) before leaving to promote it here.  Because of this, Little Bird will likely bear a 2011 release date when it hits the states, even though I got it from iTunes in September.  Given the impact Chambers’ music has had on my life, I thought I could bend the rules for her.

Musically, Little Bird isn’t quite as rootsy as 2008’s Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson album Rattlin’ Bones (although tracks like “Georgia Brown” come close).  It also isn’t as shiny and polished as 2006’s Carnival (although tracks like the title song come close).  What makes this album so solid is that it marries all of Chambers’ rock, pop, and country influences together in a way that she hasn’t done since Barricades & Brickwalls.  In fact, songs like the guitar driven “This Story” and the mournful “Somewhere” (with Patty Griffin) would have fit in well on that album.  That’s a pretty high compliment in my book.

Kasey Chambers: This Story (Buy Album)

#7 – So Runs the World Away by Josh Ritter

I was first introduced to the music of Idaho’s Josh Ritter through his 2003 album Hello Starling (his third), and have been enthralled by his songs ever since.  “Kathleen” from that album may contain my favorite opening line for a song ever (“All the other girls here are stars./You are the Northern Lights.”), he delivered my favorite album of 2007 (The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter), and now he has provided another strong offering with So Runs the World Away.  With it he proves that he’s one of the strongest songwriters working today.

And songwriting is at the core of what makes this album special.  Ritter tackles some high-concept ideas on a few songs here and pulls them off beautifully.  The mummy love story set to a waltz in “The Curse,” the classic murder ballad character reunion in “Folk Bloodbath,” and the epic maritime tragedy of “Another New World” all take narrative chances and all come out beautifully.  Combine that with songs like the trippy dreamscape of “Change of Time,” the lilting Graceland inspired “Lark,” and the travelogue of “Southern Pacifica,” and you have a particularly well-rounded album.

Josh Ritter: Another New World (Buy Album)

Weekend YouTube: Kasey Chambers

Posted in Kasey Chambers on September 18, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Kasey Chambers has a new CD out… in Australia.

Little Bird was released on Friday, but don’t look for it in The States any time soon. As she’s done with her previous albums, Chambers first releases her music in Australia so she can focus on tours and promotion in her homeland. Then, months later, she moves her focus to the U.S.

The difference this time is that, while it’s not available physically in stores, Little Bird is for sale on iTunes. I’ve already got my copy.
Here’s a video of the title track and lead single…

Random Weekend Post: Happy Birthday Kasey Chambers

Posted in Kasey Chambers on June 5, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Friday was the birthday of Australian singer/songwriter Kasey Chambers. Regular readers don’t need me to tell them how big of a role Chambers played in my immersion in the world of Americana music. Just in case though… this is everything I’ve ever written about her.

I don’t know that I’d be doing this if I hadn’t heard her voice almost a decade ago. I just wanted to say Happy Birthday by sharing a couple of videos.

And now for something completely different…

This is a clip from a St. Louis news broadcast from the late 1970’s. Take notice of the gentleman who appears roughly 90 seconds into the clip. It’s none other than R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. Thanks to USA Today’s Pop Candy blog for sharing this earlier this week.

Top 10 Americana Albums of the Decade: #1 – Barricades & Brickwalls by Kasey Chambers

Posted in Kasey Chambers, Top 10 Americana Albums: 2000-2009 on December 6, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Kasey Chambers’ 2001 CD Barricades & Brickwalls is the #1 album on my list. It has to be. No other album did for me what this one did. Essentially… this album is the reason I am a fan of Americana music, it’s the reason I’m an Americana DJ, and it’s the reason I write this Americana (and other stuff) blog. I know it sounds trite and simplistic, but this album changed my life. That’s the only way to say it.

I wrote about it back in September of last year as an Essential Album, and I don’t think there’s anything I could say here that I didn’t say there. Here’s what I wrote then…

In the spring of 2002, I was working as a Graduate Assistant at Morehead State Public Radio in Morehead, Kentucky. I mostly worked in the newsroom writing news and sports copy and anchoring the occasional newscast. On Friday nights, it was my job to sit in the broadcast studio and make sure nothing went wrong while we aired a few nationally syndicated music programs. Essentially, I would introduce a program, do nothing for an hour, and then introduce the next program.

I spent most of those Friday nights chatting with friends on line, making fantasy baseball trades, or just reading and doing classwork. Every so often, however, I would actually listen to the shows I was airing. One night, on a show called E-Town, I heard the voice of an Australian country singer named Kasey Chambers. The down under twang in her voice was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I wasn’t sure what I was hearing… but I knew I liked it.

The next week, I asked the music director at the station if he had ever heard of this Kasey Chambers person. He started raving about this thing called “Americana Music” and how great it was and how great Kasey Chambers was, and he gave me a copy of her CD, Barricades and Brickwalls that had just been released in the U.S. I still wasn’t sure what this Americana thing was he kept talking about, but I took the CD home for a listen. I had no idea at the time what that CD would lead me to.

I pushed play and was immediately met with the ominous guitar riff of the title track followed by Kasey’s distinctive vocal twang. I was immediately hooked. The song itself is a meditation on obsession. Kasey runs through a laundry list of things that have been placed between her and the object of her desires. Barricades and brickwalls, iron bars and big ol’ cars, locked doors, screaming and shouting… nothing will hold her back. In the chorus, she makes her intentions clear by declaring, “I’ll be damned if you’re not my man before the sun goes down.”

The rocking title track is followed by the softer “Not Pretty Enough” (the song that got my attention from the E-Town broadcast) and continues to mix ballads like “On a Bad Day” and “Nullarbor Song” with country weepers like “A Little Bit Lonesome” and “Still Feeling Blue” and alt-country blueprints like “Runaway Train” and “If I Were You.”

Each time I listened to the disc and read through the liner notes, I heard something different and discovered something new. The album became my gateway drug into Americana music. It was my introduction to Buddy Miller, who provided backing vocals on “Runaway Train.” I heard Lucinda Williams for the first time on “On a Bad Day.” The album also introduced me to Gram Parsons with Kasey’s cover of Parsons’ “Still Feeling Blue.”

Not long after I fell in love with the album, I discovered that Kasey would be appearing at a taping of The Mountain Stage just a few hours up the road in Charleston, West Virginia. Of course, I wanted to go see the show. I didn’t even care that I also had to sit through listing to four other artists who I had never heard of. Of course… those artists turned out to be Laura Cantrell, Dar Williams, James McMurtry, and Rodney Crowell with Kenny Vaughn.

Holy Cow! How could one artist and one album expose me to so many other artists who would all become such staples of my music collection just a few short years later? I don’t know… but Kasey Chambers did it.

I first heard Kasey Chambers and Barricades and Brickwalls in the early months of 2002. That summer, I began hosting Morehead State Public Radio’s nightly Americana program one night a week. The story goes on from there. Who knows what might have happened to me and my musical tastes without this album?

That’s it… my favorite album of the last decade. Earlier this year, I had the chance to meet Kasey Chambers and her husband Shane Nicholson when they played a show at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville. I told her the story of how her music led me to so many other artists and sounds. She helped fill my last decade with great music, and it was nice to be able to say, “Thank You.”

Kasey Chambers: On a Bad Day (Buy Album)
Kasey Chambers: If I Were You (Buy Album)

Americana Music Awards Nominees ’09: Song of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 09, Buddy and Julie Miller, Kasey Chambers, Patty Griffin, Rodney Crowell, Shane Nicholson, The Flatlanders, The Gourds on August 28, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last week, I previewed the nominees for “Best New & Emerging Artist” at this year’s Americana Awards and Honors and asked you to vote for who you thought should win. You chose The Band of Heathens by an almost two-to-one margin over Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles.

This week, we’re going to dip into another category and ask you to vote on the “Americana Song of the Year.”

We’ll start with “Chalk” by Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin from Buddy and Julie Miller’s 2009 release Written in Chalk. Julie wrote the song, but does not appear on the track… opting instead to let Patty Griffin lend her beautiful voice to provide the soaring harmonies to Buddy’s soulful and grounded baritone. It was the right choice. Lyrically, the song is a classic Julie Miller tune full of heartache, heartbreak, burdens carried, and promises written in chalk that are easily erased. The musical accompaniment is mostly subdued… strummed acoustic guitars, resonant drums, and soft piano flourishes… but the vocal performances of Buddy and Patty make the song an absolute powerhouse.

Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin: Chalk (Buy Album)

The perfect counterpoint to the restrained heartbreak of “Chalk” is the unbridled joy and energy of “Country Love” by The Gourds from their 2009 effort Haymaker. Vocalist Kevin Russell sets the tone for the song by shouting the opening line, “Wake up! We’re going to the country.” For the next 2:45 the listener is taken on a hayride through the backwoods… a place where sweet potatoes are divine, you can actually see the stars away from the city lights, and a little “country lovin'” can make everything alright. Accordions, twangy guitars, and shouts of joy fill the track. If you can’t dance to this one… you may just not dance at all.

The Gourds: Country Love (Buy Album)

We’re brought back to reality a bit by the third nominee, “Homeland Refugee” by The Flatlanders from their 2009 effort Hills and Valleys. On this track, Flatlanders Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock create a moving narrative by invoking imagery from past eras of American hardships such as The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl to illustrate some of the financial hardships being faced by many Americans today. Ely takes lead vocals on the track and tells of a protagonist forced to leave his home on the coast and return to a simpler life in middle America. He returns along the same path his forefathers used during our country’s time of expansion when people looked to the west to find better fortunes. A lyrical nod to Woody Guthrie only drives home the point that our “Pastures of Plenty” aren’t so plentiful anymore.

The Flatlanders: Homeland Refugee (Buy Album)

That brings us to “Rattlin’ Bones,” the title track of the 2008 release by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson. The husband and wife team of Kasey and Shane take a few cues from the Carter Family on this track that is a true celebration of the roots of country and folk music. The instrumentation is sparse with just guitar, banjo, and drums. Kasey and Shane share the lead vocal in a back-and-forth style and combine to craft haunting harmonies in the chorus. The concept is simple, but the execution is flawless. I don’t care if it comes from Australia… this IS Americana music.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin’ Bones (Buy Album)

Our final nominee this year is the title track from Rodney Crowell’s 2008 effort Sex and Gasoline. As you may recall, I was a little underwhelmed by Rodney’s latest effort when it was released… but this track had nothing to do with that. The song is an indictment of a sexist society and a popular culture that bases a woman’s worth solely on her beauty and youth. Or to put it in Rodney’s words, “You ain’t nothin’ but the shape you’re in.” There is something wrong with a society in which a 30-year-old woman is looked upon as an “old hag.” Of course, Rodney Crowell has never been afraid to call a foul when he sees one.

Rodney Crowell: Sex and Gasoline (Buy Album)

As for who should and will win this one I think I’m going to have to go with Buddy and Patty on both counts. Buddy is the most awarded artist in the history of the Americana Music Awards, and he’s leading the house band for the awards show again this year. Patty is also a past winner at the awards and sports what may be the best voice in the industry. The dark horse here may be The Flatlanders. Voters for this award have gone for topical songs in the past, and this one is timely without being transparent.

My vote (if I had one): Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin
My prediction: Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin

Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson: Concert Review

Posted in Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson on August 17, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

As I mentioned last week, we had quite the musical smorgasbord in Knoxville over the weekend. Brendan James Wright, Chris Knight, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Old Crow Medicine Show, Van Eaton & Friends, and The Steeldrivers all played somewhere in or around town this weekend. The biggest “event,” of course, took place Friday night at World’s Fair Park when the Old Crow Medicine Show and a few thousand of their closest friends gathered for The Big Surprise Tour.

By all accounts, OCMS and friends put on a great show, but I doubt it held any more surprises than the show I saw on Saturday night at the Bijou Theatre. Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson played for nearly two hours with a mix of songs from their 2008 collaboration Rattlin’ Bones, tunes from each of their solo careers, and a few carefully chosen covers as well.
As for the surprises on Saturday night… I’ll try to go through them one by one.
The biggest surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the songs from Shane’s solo catalogue. Rattlin’ Bones served as my introduction to Shane’s music, but I had never heard his voice independent of Kasey’s. Shane played two songs from his latest solo effort Familiar Ghosts, and I was blown away by both. I don’t want to say too much about it here, because I would like to give the album a proper review of its own later on. For now, just know that the album is not yet commercially available in the United States, but you can find it on iTunes.
There were also a few surprise guests on hand for the show. The concert was billed as just Kasey and Shane, and they played a good deal of the show together with no one else on stage. Even so, I probably should not have been surprised when Kasey’s dad, Bill Chambers, sat in on several songs. He’s appeared on most of her albums, including Rattlin’ Bones, and has always been involved in her career. It was nice to see him on stage.
The bigger surprise was the presence of Kym Warner of The Greencards. It turns out that Kym and Kasey are both from the same small town in Australia and have known each other since childhood. Kym now lives in Nashville, and made the drive to Knoxville to see his friends. Of course… he “just happened” to bring his mandolin along with him and found himself on stage for four or five songs at the end of the night. At one point, Kym played a riff that seemed to amaze even the people on stage with him. I saw Kasey turn to Shane and mouth the words, “That was awesome.”
A few songs also got a bit of a face lift for the show. It seems Shane found an old upright piano somewhere in the bowels of the Bijou and brought it out on stage. We were consequently treated to a version of Kasey’s standard “The Captain” with piano accompaniment instead of guitar. Shane also gave us a solo version of “Once in a While” from Rattlin’ Bones on the keys. It made for a nice addition to the show, and really showcased another element of Shane’s talents.
The surprises didn’t stop there either. It seems Kasey has written a children’s book called Little Kasey and the Lost Music. To coincide with the book, Kasey and her dad will release a children’s album called Kasey, Poppa Bill, and the Little Hillbillies. She says the idea behind the album is to have plenty of songs for the little ones to enjoy while also tossing in a few tracks for their parents as well. We were treated to two songs from the album. The first was a duet between “Little Kasey” and “Poppa Bill” that was based on all the questions she would ask him as a child. The second was full-tilt romp about what might happen if all the animals in the Australian Outback started a band. Have you ever seen a dingo, playing a bongo, riding on a kangaroo? Me neither, but it sounds like fun.
All of that is just to say how enjoyable the concert was overall. It was never predictable and kept me entertained throughout. Kasey and Shane engaged in easy banter throughout the show and kept the audience laughing with them all night. I always enjoy a show more when I know that the artists are really having fun on stage. It always comes through in their performance, and it’s easy to see that Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson enjoy making music together.
As great as the show was, however, the biggest thrill for me came afterwards. Because WDVX was the presenting station, I was asked to do the stage announcements before the show. Because of that… I had a couple of backstage passes and my wife and I were able to go backstage for a private meet and greet after the show.
I expected to just have the standard exchange where we would gush over how much we enjoyed the show, and then we’d have a minute or two of uncomfortable small talk before leaving and letting them get on with their lives.
In one final surprise, however, we found ourselves chatting with Kasey and Shane for nearly 15 minutes about the show, jet lag, Old Crow (they went to the Big Surprise Tour), WDVX, their kids, and the music industry in general. They were as nice and genuine as any artists I have ever met, and that makes me enjoy their music just that much more. All things considered, it was one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had. Go see them if you get the chance.
I’ll leave you with a video I found of “The Captain” set to piano. It isn’t from this weekend, but it should give you an idea of what we saw. I’m also putting up a from Rattlin’ Bones for you to sample. I know it’s one I’ve shared before, but I’ve talked about this album a few times here, and I’ll be talking about it again when I get into my Americana Music Awards Nominees posts… so I don’t want to give away the whole thing. Just make sure you click the “Buy Album” link after you listen to the song. You won’t be disappointed.
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson: The Devil’s Inside My Head (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson

Posted in Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson on August 15, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Tonight’s the night… I’ll be seeing Kasey and Shane at the Bijou. If anybody has seen them lately, let me know what I’m in for.