Kasey Chambers - Little Bird

Known as one of the top 'alt-country' stars, Australia's Kasey Chambers' most recent release was 2006's Carnival. Is Little Bird more like that record or more like her rootsy duets album with her husband Shane Nicholson?

Kasey Chambers has, over the years, developed her own style. It is a mid-tempo rhythm, with various instruments from guitar to mandolin burbling up and around the tempo like a creek around rocks. Its the melody of “Don't Talk Back,” “If I Were You,” “Like A River” and “Nothing At All,” among others. Little Bird has its share of these songs, including the bouncy title track. Chambers describes the song as a sequel of sorts to “Not Pretty Enough,” but in this case the protagonist of the song ponders all the ways she can conform to get her love back before deciding its not worth the effort. The album opens with a set of these Kasey Chambers signature tracks. “Someone Like Me” is a rather generic song about pining for a potential love interest. “Beautiful Mess” is an exquisitely infectious song that finds Chambers looking around at a house full of children and marveling at how her bohemian, artsy life wound up like this. “This Story” finds Chambers' voice fusing perfectly with the melody line to deliver a catchy post-break up song. One of the things which has always set Chambers apart from the crowd is her voice. Fans love is because it because of its wealth of twang, its delicate catch and its easy high lonesome sound. Detractors dislike it because it can come off as just a little bit whiney and can make her sound like she is still in high school. “Invisible Girl” finds Chambers' broken little girl vocals in their finest form as she fuses “Not Pretty Enough” and “More than Ordinary” into a single, superior song. “The Stupid Things I Do,” however, does not fare as well, being merely cute and a little precious. Chambers follows her pattern of writing sequels to her songs with “Nullabor, the Biggest Backyard” about the joys of her nomadic childhood. “Train Wreck” howls like a follow up on her train theme, as loud and snarling as “Runaway Train,” and as stompy as “Living on the Railroad.” In a refreshing return to form she has a song on the album which pays tribute to her classic country roots. In this case it is the Patsy Cline sounding heartbreak ballad “Bring Back My Heart.” Chambers does strike out for new territory, thematically speaking, on this album by writing a couple of songs about making it through hard times. “Devil on Your Back” is a fun romp through Aussie bluegrass that finds Chambers advising “There's a devil on your back, worry on your mind weight of the world on your shoulders, so don't look back and don't waste time.” “Come down from your high horse, aren't you tired and lonely,” she wails in the bluesy rocker “Down Here on Earth.” “Somewhere” finds Chambers murmuring vignettes about people searching for faith in their darkest moments. In hands less deft this song would have come across as pandering and saccharine, but her delicate and aching delivery make it remarkable. Much of Little Bird finds Kasey Chambers charting familiar territory, but it is a remarkable journey all the same.

In her own way, Kasey Chambers is a microcosm for what has happened in alt-country. She started out in a ball of neo-country fire, struggled to find a cross over mainstream audience and is now working her way back through her roots more confident in who she is as an artist. And the fans of alt-country have moved on from knee jerk reaction against mainstream country to a more comfortable Americana home full of the many genres of music they love. Little Bird is an album by an artist who is a little bit stronger, and a little bit more comfortable with her own sound. It is an album full of moments and stories that mark who were are and who we have been over the past ten years.

You can support Kasey Chambers by purchasing this album at Amazon. It's not available digitally.