I discovered Kasey Chambers’ music about four or five years ago and, since that time, I have done everything possible to collect every song she has ever recorded. Everything was going fine until yesterday morning, when I was told by my mother that I had to write a review of her latest album, Little Bird. It isn’t simply that I have spent the majority of the last three years trying to do as little as possible, but rather, I am sitting here trying to figure out how to write a fair and balanced review of someone that I am in awe of. Maybe the best I can do is to write a review that is unbalanced and skewed.
First, before I write anything about the album, let me simply say this to those fanatical HVBA Bluegrass-ers reading this, this album is NOT bluegrass. It shares some bluegrass instrumentation and there are hints of country buried within a few of the songs. Kasey Chambers really has a style all her own and if you are looking for traditional bluegrass music, this album is not what you’re looking for. However, if you are seeking to listen to some exceptional music from an artist who has a great ability to marry catchy melodies with lyrics that can really touch your heart then this just might be the album for you.
“Bring Back My Heart”
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Kasey Chambers, she began her career in the ‘90’s as the lead vocalist of The Dead Ringer Band which included her parents and her brother. She began her solo career in 1999, with the release of The Captain. This CD won Kasey the 1999 ARIA award for Best Country Album and in 2000 she won the award for Best Female Artist.
In 2002 Chambers delivered another sonic beauty with Barricades & Brickwalls. This album was a multi-platinum success in Australia and significantly raised her profile in the United States, earning her enthusiastic reviews and much better sales than The Captain. Since that time, Chambers has released 4 more solo albums, as well as two collaborations with family members.
Kasey Chambers’ most recent album, Little Bird, continues to build upon her previous work. Using an all-star band that Kasey dubs The Millionaires; John Watson on drums, Jeff McCormack on bass, Shane Nicholson, Jim Mogine (Midnight Oil) and Kasey’s dad, Bill Chambers, playing all manner of guitars and stringed instruments.
The themes of the songs on this album range from unrequited love to the bitterness that occurs when love turns sour to songs of love for her children to songs of nostalgia about her own childhood. It is an album that swings between sad songs of self doubt and insecurity to songs of inner strength and rebellious spirit. Within all of these songs, however, the glue that holds it together is Kasey Chambers’ voice which is always strong yet vulnerable.
The album has already won much praise from the music community for songs such as “Beautiful Mess,” which won the grand prize for the 2010 International Songwriting Competition (ISC) – the world’s preeminent global songwriting event. The album also includes “Devil On Your Back,” which won First Place in the Americana category. It is a roaring hillbilly jig, hollerin’ about bibles and devils in which, after considering the problems of life, the singer concludes that if you have “worry on your mind, weight of the world on your shoulder . . . don’t look back, don’t waste time, everything’s gonna be just fine.”
Some other songs of note include the title track, “Little Bird” which also won second place at the ISC for best performance. It is a glorious song reflecting on a young woman’s insecurities and harkens back to a song she wrote many years ago called “Not Pretty Enough.” Although in this song she contrasts her insecurities with a very clear message that she is unwilling to compromise herself. It is this song that most clearly demonstrates the strength and insecurity within her music with lyrics like: “A little bird said in the middle of a dream if I shut my mouth and I don’t make a scene you might come back, If I crossed my fingers and curl my toes, If I looked liked the other girls, everybody knows you might come back . . . but I don’t want you that bad.” It is a song of strength and determination and it is a message that is hard to forget once one hears it.
I could go on to detail each and every song that appears on this album but I believe that the beauty of albums like this one is for the listener to find the hidden magic buried within each track. I only hope that some of you are adventurous enough to break with traditional bluegrass and country music and go out and buy this album. It is truly an album that is sure to entice and reward you.
Sugar Hill Records