Music Reviews - Kasey Chambers: Barricades and Brickwalls

      Date posted: January 20, 2002

Barricades and Brickwalls
      Warner Bros CDW 48028

       If you get close enough to another person the two of you will often develop a secret speech pattern-a soft, sensitive tone that comes out subconsciously when you are sharing your most comfortable, precious moments. If it accidentally emerges in the presence of outsiders it sounds like baby-talk, but when it’s just the two of you it sounds perfect.

      Kasey Chambers sounds perfect. Her voice has somehow tapped into that secret place, where warm thoughts and whispers provide more security than a thousand armed guards. She is as honest as holding hands. The idea of not believing what she says seems almost criminal.

       Although the publicity machine would rather I use the word “roots,” Chambers writes and sings country music. Her voice elevates familiar material such as the first single, “Not Pretty Enough” to pop of the highest order, but her true gift comes in her capacity to not go “diva” and dole out sentiment one ballad at a time. The title track opens the album with a Crazy Horse snarl, demanding your attention. “A Little Bit Lonesome” is as old-school as it gets, utilizing steel guitar and a Hank Williams croon. The album’s only cover, “Still Feeling Blue” is a stellar, stripped down version of the Gram Parsons classic.

       Perhaps the two songs Chambers plays on acoustic guitar without accompaniment best illustrate her range: “Falling Into You” is a tender confession of a young lover, hurt enough times to hesitate falling under the spell of someone new, while “Ignorance” is a scathing protest song, wise enough to cite recent tragic events and bold enough to demand that we all take responsibility. When a voice this sweet starts yelling, you are compelled to listen.

       Lucinda Williams has clearly been a profound influence on this young songwriter, and she herself appears briefly, singing back-up on “On a Bad Day.” Buddy Miller and Paul Kelly & The Living End also make guest appearances, adding harmony and texture. Maybe part of the reason this music sounds so fresh is that Chambers’ southern, down-home sensibilities come from way, way down–Australia to be precise. “Nullarbor Song” is a beautiful ode to a town she has left behind, and also of note, the royalties from the song “Ignorance” will be donated to The Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, supporting orphanages in Australia.

       On just her second release, Kasey Chambers has emerged as one of the most compelling voices in music today. The success of Barricades and Brickwalls suggests a thousand different directions this artist could turn, and I have a funny feeling we’ll all be listening.

Darryl Stenabaugh

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