Kasey Chambers: The Captain

Kasey Chambers: The Captain

Despite nearly unanimous critical acclaim, some have suggested that country singer Kasey Chambers' Australian origins make her debut album The Captain less authentic than the work of her American counterparts. But Chambers is no latter-day Olivia Newton-John: Understanding her position necessitates understanding the roots of country music, which is hardly a wholly American innovation. Country came directly from the Anglo-Celtic immigrants who arrived in America with their own folk conventions in tow. But Australia was a key destination of that same exodus, and its population, like America's, sprouted from a steady stream of British prisoners, sailors, and settlers. Australia's country music consequently borrows from the same traditions that inspired America's, making the music of artists like Chambers parallel rather than purloined. That settled, Chambers' skill-to-age ratio is still almost shocking, exacerbated by her deceptive little-girl voice. At just 24, she possesses a world-weary and incisive narrative style, honed during the 10 years she and her hippie family lived in the remote outback. "Southern Kind Of Life" documents this unconventional upbringing, and the rest of her debut features a similarly autobiographical bent. Of course, that also encourages Jewel-like tendencies in "Mr. Baylis" and the precious statement of purpose "Cry Like A Baby" ("I don't have answers for every single question / but that's okay 'cause I'm just a kid"). But there's something honest about her music, especially in standouts like the tough relationship song "The Hard Way," the morbidly funny "We're All Gonna Die Someday," the title track's passive tale of (possibly) submission, and a handful of rave-ups like "Last Hard Bible." Since country is music of experience, a start like The Captain indicates that Chambers should become even more worthy of the effusive but still somewhat premature praise she's already received.

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