Tag Archives: country music

525. Kasey Chambers – “Storybook”

Another (relatively recent) purchase in need of a ‘catch up’ review.

a album cover Chambers Kasey Chambers Storybook Songbook CD review blogKasey Chambers is definitely a guilty pleasure around here, and when she released an album of covers I was intrigued.

The collection reveals a few lessons.

1. Chambers has excellent musical taste.  It’s hard to argue with the Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Paul Kelly, Fred Eaglesmith and Gillian Welch selections (in terms of both artist and song choices). Hearing Earle’s Nothing but a child and Kelly’s Everything’s turning to white with a female voice does add something new to their respective narratives and vibes.

2. She has a decent contacts list, with Kelly and Jimmy Barnes popping in to duet (Kelly very well, Barnesy not so much).

3. While some tunes are excellent reinterpretations, or at least decent homages, in the end it still feels like a diversion from her core business of penning original tunes that intrigue and excite.  Sure it’d be great fun to pop into her regular gigs down the road from her house where she has a covers band, it still doesn’t stack up against the ‘real thing’ (her music, or the originals of said tunes).

So add KC to the growing list of overdue new albums.

File under: Familiar tales

428. Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill And The Little Hillbillies – “Little Kasey Chambers and The Lost Music”

One last pre-K review (actually, I’ve just remembered another J I own – so this is second last!).

I am without children, so I am typically spared the perils of navigating the murky world of children’s music, bedevilled as it is with much that is cloying, aggravating, embarrassing and downright painful.

Sure, there a little nuggets of gold courtesy of them fine folks at CTW (oh, and a J record I should go fish out!), but I am spared all the merchandising masquerading as music that seems to clutter the lounges of so many parents I know.

Nevertheless, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to check out this little ‘family album’ from Kasey, her Dad, and various of their infant family members.

I played it  once upon purchase, shelved it, and was only reminded of its existence by Kasey’s newie, and also seeing Bill and KC performing a track off here (Dad, Do You Remember?) live on stage.

Put succinctly, this album has far too many tracks featuring children singing. They can hold a rhythm quite well, and the sentiments are sweet and well-intentioned (I’d think divorced parents might find Two Houses a useful counselling tool), but there are too few straight ahead country numbers. The title track ain’t bad though:

There are also a lot of mentions of Aussie fauna. I’m guessing it’d work for the 3-6 year old market, and while I am immature, I’m not that spritely.

File under: A Christmas pressie for the little jackaroo/jillaroo in your family?


335. The Be Good Tanyas – “Blue Horse”

Lest I get irreversibly immersed in the rather obscure Rockwiz category of “Aussie shoegazer output of the 1990s” I’ve decided to break up my reviews with a “B” that I missed on the way through.

This is the first of a couple of download only albums in my collection that I’d forgotten I “owned”. They’d been residing on old memory stick since my days in Denmark when I got a bit desperate for some new tunes and was gifted a couple of free albums from some site.

I lumped for these Canadian country lasses on the back of some name recall from RRR show Twang. This debut treads the lovely line between folk and country, features some sweet harmonies and a nice selection of originals and surprising covers.

On the covers front, they manage to breathe life into the potentially cheesy Oh Susanna and nail an Gaelic chestnut called Lakes Of Pontchartrain. The latter features brief member and now pretty successful soloist (and non-Canuck) Jolie Holland. She certainly has a luscious voice and can also pen a tune as she displays on the single:

This is a perfect slow-paced but upbeat album for warming up a chilly, wet afternoon, which is what it did regularly in Copenhagen and has achieved here in Melbourne today.

File under: Buck those blues

273. Steve Earle – “Side Tracks”

As I keep confessing, when pressed (it doesn’t take much) to belt out a karaoke tune, I often opt for Steve Earle’s tale of John Lee Pettimore.

On this album we get a sense of Earle’s preferences when in such a position. This is a collection of curios from his career, many of which are covers.

Earle has unsurprisingly eclectic tastes, which ditties here from The Flying Burrito Brothers, Nirvana, and our recent reviewee Bob Dylan.

He also is prepared to tackle the reggae genre (not particularly successfully), and also embrace very mainstream country.

Steve also some slightly cooler crooning buddies than most of us. He shares a mic here with cycling’s former First Lady (Sheryl Crow), and You Am I soundalikes, The Supersuckers.

As my description perhaps gets across, there are many elements that make this release pretty disjointed and throwaway. The saving grace is Earle’s enthusiasm, his love of performing, and his ability to not tread across into the (large) embarrassing uncle area of the karaoke stage. 

This is far from an essential Earle effort (there are a few more of his CDs that I suspect are, and which I do not (yet) own). 

File under: You don’t win friends with side-salad

272. Steve Earle – “Transcendental Blues”

Sorry for the lull in my reviewing. I was over in South Australia for a few days sans my iPhone headphones.

As a result I was stuck with that folk standard Bound for South Australia rattling around my head. There is something slighly apt with that choice, as Steve Earle has definitely got folkier over the years.

This collection of tracks sees mandolin and plenty aplenty, and more tunes about the bountiful charms of Irish womenfolk (this time a Galway Girl).

The album is a pretty strong compadré to the mighty El Corazón, but doesn’t quite hit those heights. It is a slightly more morose effort, with more subdued slower efforts.

Earle does tend to spoil his listeners, and one can get blasé about the subtletly and beauty of his songwriting and performances.

I had the pleasure of catching the sobered up, portly ’00s version of Earle live in Byron Bay a few years ago (and was also too timid to have a chat to him when I spied him alone in a pub with a soda and book) and he was a consumate performer.

…although perhaps not up to The Dubliners standard!

File under: Not Transvision Vamp

271. Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band – “The Mountain”

Steve Earle does like his genre jumps. He’s not a complete chameleon and he doesn’t venture too far, but he does transform considerably within the ‘roots’ domain.

Here he justifies his facial hair with a deep dive into the world of bluegrass and general folkiness.

He teams up with McCoury crew, a posse of slack-jawed fiddlers, banjoists and tin-whistlerians.

These yokels (for I envisage them as Cletus from The Simpsons and his inbred clan) strum up a storm. It’s like one big barndance.

Steve holds nothing back, embracing all the genre’s B-roll of imagery. Look kiddies, there’s an Irish immigrant…and a miner’s miserable life… And an alluring lass breaking a farmboy’s heart and leading him a hanging death.

I’m a sucker for a tune about steam trains. And this set kicks off with one. Yeeee Haaaaa.

File under: Get ya yokel vocals here folks

269. Steve Earle – “El Corazón”

My Steve Earle collection is surprisingly sporadic.  Here I jump forward four albums.

The leap is a fun one though.  Unlike the scarily skewed Copperhead Road, this is a complete album that keeps delivering from start to finish.

The opener (Christmas in Washington) is a fantastic slow burn lamenting the loss of genuine lefties from US politics.  I’m sure Toby Ziegler would sing along (embarassingly).

The pace picks up for Taneytown, a ‘be careful where you go’ tale – a theme that reappears on the super-catchy Telephone Road, and is twisted the other direction in the inspiring (for travellers) NYC.

Earle seems less constrained by musical conventions here.  Rather than being just a country-rock, or acoustic-country or bluegrass effort, this album leaps about with confidence and enthusiasm.

Mandolins fire on some tracks (such as the delightful I Still Carry You Around).  Others are much rockier (NYC). Many are humourous.  You Know the Rest is a songwriter at complete ease with his abilities.

This is the album I put on to demonstrate than Earle is much more than that Copperhead Road song that I like to butcher.  It also showcases how vital and exciting roots music (for want of a better term) can be.

File under: I ♥  this

267. Steve Earle – “Early Tracks”

The music industry can be a harsh work environment.  Steve Earle spent more than a decade trying to get his talent recognised and his recording works released.

This CD is a compilation of a few of these ignored, belated and unloved efforts. It is more of a curiosity than anything else.

It is the record of a performer and songwriter trying to find a voice.  Earle wrote a few country hits for mainstream artists, and you can hear the more generic approach he was taking here.

The songs are a mix of rockabilly and MOR country.  There is little angst, little passion.  It is country-by-numbers.

The only rough diamond in the mix is an early recording of a song he would polish up in to a real gem later in his career – Devil’s Right Hand. I love the later version.  This early incarnation is merely a demo in comparison.

Perhaps the music honchos were correct back in the late 70s and early 80s in questioning Earle’s acumen.  And the heartbreak and grudge would drive his later brilliance.

None of that motivates owning this. Seek out other works.

File under: A glimpse into the dull life of the A&R job

266. Justin Townes Earle – “Midnight at The Movies”

You might recall that at the turn of the decade I declared JTE’s 2009 performance in Melbourne as in my top 2 live shows of the year.

He was touring his sophomore full-lengther which I subsequently picked up on luscious vinyl.

The stand out tracks at the gig where his old-time, borderline rag-time tunes, his natty garb, and adorable southern twang.

He has the rare combo of a humble swagger, and an ability to pen bittersweet, back-handed lovesongs.

This album has all of that. As with his debut, I much prefer what, if I were a business school wanker, I might call his core competencies or point of difference – namely the traditional stuff.

Having said that, his more modern material has stepped up several notches in quality. He is more evocative, more confident and stepping further out of his pa’s shadow.

I bought tickets this week to his upcoming return visit to Melbourne, with a former Drive-By Trucker in tow. I’m excited and expect to see you all there.

File under: A back-row beauty

265. Justin Townes Earle – “The Good Life”

Taking a sneak peek forward along the CD rack it is country and/or western as far as the eye can see (I do have poor vision however).

Indeed, I’m thinking I should go buy a pickup truck this weekend, acquire a mangy lookin’ hound, knock out my front teeth and develop a (more serious) drinking problem.

One dude who has certainly nurtured a bottle (and syringe) or two in his past is Justin Townes Earle. That shouldn’t be a big shock if you’ve read his dad, Steve’s bio. He’s the output of Steve’s third marriage (of seven!).

What is whackier is the throwback angle of JTE. His rebellion was to ignore post-war country music and embrace very old-school bluegrass.

Oh, and what a warm embrace it’s proved to be. It is like Hank Williams resurrected from his 1953 overdose, had a listen to a couple of Steve’s CDs and said “nah, I was better”. Tracks like Hard Livin’ and What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome are bluegrass masterpieces that’ll get you slapping your thigh and chewin’ tabaccie in no time:

Sure, at times this sounds like old Dad, but even that is a nice place to be.

File under: Felicity Kendall would dig this