Kasey Chambers,
The Captain
(EMI Music Australia, 1999;
Warner Brothers, 2000)

First, some history, because it's just the kind of Jewel-esque thing that we all love to hear. It's 20-some years ago in Australia. Mom and Dad Chambers, with their infant daughter and toddler son in tow, decide to escape the civilization of city life by packing it all up and moving to the remote Nullabor Plains of the Australian Outback, sans roads, indoor plumbing, appliances, etc. They sing a lot of Hank Williams around the campfire and like the place so much that they stay there for 10 years, subsisting on meager profits from small game hunting. When daughter Kasey is 10, the family moves back to civilization where Dad makes a living as a fisherman by day and a singer (with Mom singing harmony) by night. The gigs become a family affair known as the Dead Ringer Band, which releases a few albums and wins critical acclaim in Australia. Kasey's beautiful voice receives the most kudos and a solo album is born. The debut, released in 1999 overseas and 2000 in the U.S., is The Captain.

I'm not a fan of popular country music. Although I've been known to buy up all of Mary-Chapin Carpenter's and Trisha Yearwood's CDs, it was done in the interest of women's music, not country music. Kasey Chambers is definitely country in the tradition of Hank Williams and Emmylou Harris, with a little Dolly Parton thrown in for good measure. Not my usual cup of tea, but when I heard the title track on National Public Radio's World Cafˇ, along with a charming interview, I was smitten.

Kasey's crisp, clear voice draws you in from the first line of the first of 12 self-written songs. Her dad, Bill Chambers, backs her on numerous string instruments including dobro, slide and lap steel guitar. Brother Nash plays bass and acoustic and provides vocals on a couple of tracks. Nashville country artists Buddy and Julie Miller also lend their voices for harmony on a track apiece.

I'm a lyric nut and some of the lyrics on this CD take on more meaning when you're aware of Kasey's upbringing. When she begins "Cry Like a Baby" with the words: "Well I never lived through the Great Depression. Sometimes feel as though I did," you know she's not just some millionaire country star trying to sound like real people. Listening to her country drawl, you'd swear that the south she's singing about in the autobiographical "Southern Kind of Life" is Nashville rather than southern Australia. Interesting how some things are consistent across continents.

The CD is a mix of slower ballads and up-tempo foot tappers. The title ballad, "Captain," has been described as "pre-feminist" because of its description of a woman who seems to be giving her man control of the relationship. I disagree with that interpretation, but no one could disagree that the harmony created by Kasey and Julie Miller gives you chills. Not all of the tracks are steeped in deep emotion though. The hook line of track 4, "You got the car and I got the break," reinforces that you are listening to COUNTRY music. Another fun song is Kasey's set closer, "We're All Gonna Die Someday." Add that one to your drunken party mix.

This is an enjoyable CD for anyone who appreciates country music that isn't over orchestrated and over-produced. Kasey has a sweet voice and a talent for writing. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long for the next installment.

[ by Valerie Fasimpaur ]
Rambles: 1 September 2001

Buy it from Amazon.com.