Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kasey Chambers

June, 2011: I bought Kasey Chambers' new album Little Bird while I was in Cowra and needed something to listen to. For the first few listens, I thought it was a bit noisy. I knew I'd end up loving it, but I was happy to take it slowly - there are so few pleasures that you can safely anticipate! Most end up being far less pleasurable than you'd hoped. So I left Little Bird in Cowra, came back to Sydney, went back to Cowra again. Then the love hit. I kneaded some bread dough for the entire album, singing along at top volume. This resulted in an excellent loaf.
As I listen to the album now, I can't decide which song is my song-of-the-moment. 'Beautiful Mess' is great, 'Little Bird' masterful (it's the same character from 'Am I Not Pretty Enough', wavering between insecure and self-respectful). Every song is melodious and interesting. There's a certain directness to Kasey's songwriting; on first listen, every song is recognisable, the mood and emotion loud and clear. I suppose this is what makes her a country singer; this is what it means to work within a genre, and within sub-genres. But as I get to know the songs, their innate Kasey-ness is revealed. Although she makes use of multiple characters and fictional scenarios, there is a driving sincerity through every song. Maybe NULLABOR (THE BIGGEST BACKYARD) is the Kasey-est of all the songs. I've seen her perform it live, with a long intro about her unusual childhood on the Nullabor (her father, Bill Chambers, took up fox-hunting for a living). It's only her voice and the banjo - with imagery like this, no ornamentation is needed. I like the rhyming structure - the first line of every verse is "When I was a little girl, I had the biggest backyard in the world", and then there are three rhyming lines, then, at the end of the verse, a non-rhyme hanging off the end all by itself. Here's the last verse: "When I was a little girl, I had the biggest backyard in the world - sitting round the campfire that started from a spark, rolling down the Gunbarrel Highway in the dark, making sure I had all the room here in my heart, for...the Nullabor".

A slightly wobbly live version:

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