Barricades and Brickwalls
While Australia's Kasey Chambers isn't yet anywhere near the writer that her idol Lucinda Williams is, she shows progress and promise-a-plenty on this second solo disc. Issued in Australia last fall, its U.S. release is a welcome one, showcasing one of the brightest young voices to emerge in alt-country music in a long, long time.
Anyone wondering just how authentic an Australian singing country can sound, need only listen to Chambers's “On a Bad Day”—which features Williams on backing vocals—or the pedal-steel and fiddle splashed “A Little Bit Lonesome,” which sounds like it could have been recorded by Hank Williams in 1950.
Chambers later takes a page from the Gram Parsons' songbook, with a string-spinning cover of his “Still Feeling Blue,” featuring Buddy Miller on harmony.
Yet it is Chambers's own aching voice that again and again proves to be a treasure, whether she's snarling her way through the grungy, tough-talking electric title track, or whether she's letting her broken heart wrap around the lazy slide guitar traces in “This Mountain.” She's a cool mix of innocence and savvy, chiming in with a little of both in “Not Pretty Enough,” which takes some playful shots at radio stations who aren't smart enough to be spinning her songs.
While she's still got a way to go to catch up with her role models, Chambers is learning from the masters, like the great Australian songwriter Paul Kelly. The pair, who've performed together frequently back home, team here again on the haunting gospel duet “I Still Pray.”
That's just one of numerous, very satisfying songs on Barricades and Brickwalls. It may not be quite the dazzling step forward one might have hoped for after Chambers's 1999 debut The Captain, but it is another well-rounded effort from an artist who's got plenty of time and plenty of talent on her side.
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