Album review: "Storybook"
By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, August 10, 2012
When Kasey Chambers was young, her family would spend half the year hunting in the South Australian desert, entertaining themselves around the campfire by singing her father’s favorite American country and folk songs. These early encounters with Hank Williams, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt shaped her musical taste from an early age, and she has become Australia’s alt-country hero.
Chambers acknowledges that debt on her new album, "Storybook," recording the work of songwriters who have influenced her the most: Williams, Prine, Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, James McMurtry and more. Fourteen of the 15 honored are American; the lone Australian is Paul Kelly, equal to any of the Yanks. Chambers sings Kelly's rewrite of a Raymond Carver story, "Everything's Turning to White," and she joins Kelly on Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
Chambers also duets with Australian Jimmy Barnes on Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” and with her husband, Shane Nicholson, on Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl.” (Chambers and Nicholson will release an album together in October.)
Chambers’s soprano, as vibrant as a fiddle, is a superior instrument to these songwriters’ voices, so she adds a richness of tone. But she doesn’t sacrifice a songwriter’s sensibility, for she's a good one herself, having learned from these models at those long-ago campfires.