2017 CD REVIEW
KASEY CHAMBERS LAYS LOVE ON LINE
“I got three kids to two different fathers/ one's better looking, the other one's smarter/ sometimes it's hard to handle them both/ but my next boyfriend was barely old enough to vote/ sweet as a cookie, Harry Hookey, he might be young but he ain't no rookie.” - Talkin Baby Blues - Kasey Chambers.
No need to interview Kasey Chambers about her song sources, lovers, children, Nullarbor Plain conception and embryonic hits that launched her colourful career.
They're all in her self-deprecatory autobiographical new song Talkin' Baby Blues on her 11 th album Dragonfly - a dynamic double disc that covers all her favourite music genres with a vast cast of guest artists.
Let's start with the biology.
Well, Kasey sings of the end of winter of 1975 when her dad Bill met her mum Dianne - a Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash fan - and ensured her immaculate conception in the back of Poppa Bill's jeep.
Chambers, now 40 and mother of three, name-checks breakthrough hit The Captain - that also featured in famed Sopranos TV show and ends in a jolt with a humorous Am I Not Pretty Enough punch-line.
The singer also details the attributes of her children.
First there is son Talon from an early relationship with TV presenter, film maker, actor and comedy script writer Cori Hopper.
Cori and Kasey were together four years but never married and broke up in November 2004.
Then there's second son Arlo Ray (2007) and daughter Poet Poppin (2011) - sired by former singing spouse Shane Nicholson whom she wed in 2005 and separated from in April, 2013, after eight years of marriage.
Although Kasey boomeranged into the arms of Gippsland raised singer-songwriter Harry Hookey and collaborated on four songs on Disc 1 (The Sing Sing Sessions ) and five on Disc 2 (The Foggy Mountain Sessions ) the couple have since split.
But, like with many creative cosmic clashes, Kasey (a Carlton football supporter) lives in harmony with her former soul-mates and wrote a song about Australian Rules football with Talon.
So that makes three generations of Chambers songwriters dating back to Poppa Bill.
OK, that's a little genetic and songwriting history but let's move to the present and immediate past.
Artistic and romantic collaborations with Shane Nicholson can be found in previous interviews, reviews and features on this web page.
Kasey's brother Nash Chambers - fellow embryonic Dead Ringer Band member - guested on percussion and backing vocals on Disc 2 (The Foggy Mountain Sessions ) at his Lower Hunter Valley studios near Wollombi.
Other Foggy Mountain studio clients include Troy Cassar-Daley, Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, Archie Roach, Cold Chisel , Ross Wilson, The Waifs, Superjesus , Angie Hart, Bliss n Eso , James Reyne, and Steve Prestwich.
Kelly produced Disc 1 at the historic Sing Sing studios at inner eastern Melbourne suburb Cremorne and is guest vocalist on country blues belter Hey.
KASEY AIN'T NO LITTLE GIRL
“No I ain't no little girl/ no I ain't no little girl/ I won't break, I won't bend/ I won't wait, I won't end up with nothing to say/ I won't break, I won't bend/ I won't wait, I won't end up with nothing to say.” - Ain't No Little Girl - Kasey Chambers.
Chambers suffered nodules since the age of 10 and in her teen years as she sang marathon sessions in pubs with no fold-back.
She tried to sing through the pain until it became too much two years ago after releasing 10 th album Bittersweet.
Kasey was forced to cancel tours at great financial cost and feared her live career might be over.
“I was feeling a lot of pressure,” Kasey confessed.
“I started thinking this was it for me. I wasn't going to do music anymore. It was just too much for me to handle.”
But fate stepped in when Grafton raised prolific fellow Golden Guitarist and ARIA award winner Troy Cassar-Daley referred her to a surgeon in Brisbane who operated in May 2015 and removed the nodules and a cyst.
Troy's tonic was timely and much appreciated - it may have left her speechless but the surgeon also advised her not to talk until she fully recovered.
“My voice has a new found strength in it since surgery in May last year but I think even more of the strength has come from a power within myself personally that is then projected through my voice in this song,” Kasey confessed.
“I can honestly say I have not felt a connection as strong as this to a song since writing The Captain . Ain't No Little Girl is now as much a part of who I am as anything in my life. Since (previous album) Bittersweet I've been writing and gathering stories for my next album but the moment I wrote and started playing Ain't No Little Girl live I knew it was the glue that would hold my next musical journey together.”
Chambers credits working with fellow South Australian born Kelly as a career highlight.
“Working with Paul Kelly as my producer on one side of the double album Dragonfly was a dream come true,” Kasey revealed.
“Paul brought out a whole new side of me, but then I also got to enjoy the comforts of recording with the person who knows and has shaped my original sound better than anyone, my brother Nash, along with my live touring band who have become a huge part on my sound.
“This double album shows who I am as much as any piece of work I have ever done."
SATELLITES IN DAYLESFORD AND NU COUNTRY TV
“Sent him away in 38, California state the case was tried/ Henri Young was an orphan son/ came undone when his sister cried/ his time he served, he stole for her/ three men in tears, $5 bills/ but the grocery store had a postal door/ the federal law had to intervene/ and underneath all the disbelief he was just 17/ he'd come at last to Alcatraz.” - Behind The Eyes of Henry Young - Kasey Chambers.
Both the album and EP feature cover artwork designed by Archibald Prize finalist David Bromley.
Bromley's picturesque studio at Daylesford in central Victoria was also the video locale for second single Satellite with Ed Sheeran's harmonies and cameos by Kasey's children and a local mystic.
The video, directed by Duncan Toombs and David Bromley, features on the Nu Country TV Series #32 premiere on Saturday February 4 at 9 pm on Channel 31/44.
The Kelly produced disc entrée Pompeii - replete with Caesar, Cain and Nero references - segues into Ain't No Little Girl , pop paean Summer Pillow , gospel gallop Golden Rails , hook heavy Jonestown and English folk laced Romeo And Juliet with Irish singer Foy Vance - not Vance Joy.
It's fitting the jaunty Talkin' Baby Blues is followed by vitriolic You Ain't Worth Suffering For and reality rooted murder tale Behind The Eyes of Henri Young.
Henri Theodore Young, born in June 20, 1911 and missing since 1972, was a convicted bank robber and murderer who tried a 1939 escape from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary with four inmates.
Two escapees were shot and one died of his wounds while the survivors were quickly recaptured.
Young and Rufus McCain received solitary confinement at Alcatraz for a few months until autumn of 1939 but in December 1940 Young murdered fellow escapee McCain.
Young was transferred from Alcatraz to the Medical Centre for Federal Prisoners, Springfield, Missouri, in 1948, and later Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla to begin a life sentence for the 1933 murder conviction.
Young jumped parole in 1972 after release from Walla Walla and hasn't been seen since - if he was still alive he would be 106 years old.
Instead Young is best known as the highly fictionalised character of the same name appearing in the 1995 film Murder in the First in which he was portrayed by Kevin Bacon.
Fittingly disc 1 ends with the satirical saga This Is Gonna Be A Long Year .
PLAYING HOOKEY WITH A SUMMER PILLOW
“You told me to meet you/ down by the weeping willow/ I wanted to keep you under my summer pillow/ I twisted, you let me/ I cried, you made it better/ you shifted and held me and then you left.” - Summer Pillow - Kasey Chambers-Harry Hookey.
The Foggy Mountain Sessions disc gospel entrée Shackle & Chain , penned by Kasey, Hookey, Brandon Dodd and Imogen Clark, precedes the title track - one of four collaborations with Hookey.
The others are Satellite and bluegrass romp No Ordinary Man that features vocals by Vika and Linda Bull
Hookey, a member of Chambers entourage as support act and road band member since 2013, released his debut album Misdiagnosed in 2014 during their romantic relationship.
Although Kasey is sole writer on the melancholic If I Died , the duet with Urban on If We Had A Child and Annabelle, her writing with Hookey continued after their split.
Kasey proved she had no hard feelings by featuring Harry heavily on her disc.
“None of these songs were written for my record,” Kasey conceded.
“We just enjoyed writing together. Some of them were written when we were together and others were written after we broke up. Harry is so nice. We had our moments but I don't think it was a normal person's break-up. A lot of our relationship was built on friendship. Obviously we were together for a while but we will be bets friends forever. It was about reshuffling the relationship to where it should be. He was a big part of the record. He's amazing to work with in the studio and a super talented guy.”
Kasey released debut solo disc The Captain 18 years ago after several with the Chambers family Dead Ringer Band and hopes to avoid past pitfalls that damaged her health and career.
“I've had to change a bunch of things,” Chambers confessed.
“I never warmed up. I smoked most of my life. I'd drink a bit of straight scotch now and then. I used to talk too much and clearly that hasn't changed. But I didn't look after my voice. I had to stop doing signings after gigs. Talking after a gig is the worst thing you can do, my doctor told me. I still don't do that.
“I now warm up before shows. I stopped smoking. There's no point in having surgery if you're going to do that. I'm glad of it now and that I had the extra incentive to do it.”
Chambers finishes her disc with The Devil's Wheel , featuring co-writers Brandon Dodd and Josh Dufficy of Grizzlee Train , and a FM lounge version of Ain't No Little Girl.
Kasey, long-time resident of Copacabana on the NSW central coast, discovered Grizzlee Train playing a gig in the beer garden of the local leagues club at The Entrance.
“I saw these boys play and they just reminded me how exciting music can be and that when you focus on the right things how great it can be,” Kasey revealed.
“They played to us and some drunk lady dancing in the corner but they had so much heart and soul. They did something to me. I see great musicians all the time but they had a great innocence to them. I chatted to them afterwards. I felt like I'd known them all my life. Within a couple of days we were just jamming all the time. It wasn't long after that I asked them to join the band.”