NEW ALBUM ‘DRAGONFLY’
Full disclosure. Kasey Chambers and I have history. A few years back, through the mystical forests of social media, I offered to provide handclaps on a future album. As yet, this offer has not been taken up. – Robert Murphy, AFL Western Bulldogs Captain
One of life’s joys is to follow the thread of an artist, particularly one as talented and forthright as Kasey. Each album is seemingly a signpost of her station in life, and like any art worth its salt there’s enough common ground for all of us to feast upon. Heartache and redemption are good like that.
‘Dragonfly’ is Kasey Chambers’ 11th album and there is much to be learned even before you hear a note. When an artist has enough songs to fill a quarry and THEN they release a double album, well, this in itself seems like a statement of intent. This girl has something to say. In sporting vernacular, she’s hitting them cleanly.
That information paired with lead off single ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ tells us much about the spirit of this LP. In the artist’s own words, ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ was the first song written for the record and “the glue that holds the whole album together”.
If there is one song that captures the spirit of the album then this might be it. It’s shoulders back and chin out, the kind of song that looks you in the eye. While it’s the spirit of the song that first hits you, the power of the singing stays with you.
Coupled with ‘Ain’t Worth Suffering’ and ‘Summer Pillow’ as a trio of songs, such is the passion of the delivery they sound almost confrontational. This is a singer who had major vocal surgery not so long ago, only to emerge stronger and keen to show us what that voice can do when let off the leash.
A luxury of a successful career and a swag of new songs tucked in your pocket is you can draw on a bit of help from your friends and peers, and this album boasts an impressive and eclectic ensemble.
Grizzlee Train won’t be strangers to anyone who’s seen a Chambers show in the last year or so, and their sweet sound adds a nice touch to the swampy blues of ‘The Devil’s Wheel’. Harry Hookey, who co-wrote part of this album, is best showcased on ‘No Ordinary Man’. Harry’s soulful singing combined with the lush tones from the darlings of Australian music, Vika and Linda Bull, give this track a finesse most artists would kill for.
If there is such a thing as an archetypal Kasey Chambers song, it might be ‘If We Had A Child’. It’s the kind of duet that should only be sung by old friends who have country music running through their veins. Mercifully, Keith Urban passes the test and the results are pretty goddamn gorgeous.
Foy Vance is another to be called upon in this motley crew and his Celtic bent only makes the haunting ‘Romeo And Juliet’ just that little more mystical. There’s other singing too, from a bloke called Paul Kelly. He appears on a few tracks, plays harmonica too, but it’s his long-sought-after services as producer that really got the Chambers gang revved up. So the story goes Kasey has been at Paul for a while to watch over a batch of her songs, and after hearing ’Ain’t No Little Girl’ and ‘Henri Young’ live some time ago he felt like the time was finally right to throw his hat into the ring. You can feel his easy presence throughout the album.
Dragonfly was recorded in two locations – the Kelly (Gang) sessions down south at Sing Sing studios, and up north during the Foggy Mountain sessions where brother Nash took control of Kasey’s live band.
This a serious record by a serious artist, but this isn’t a record to be played in a dark room with the curtains drawn. ‘Golden Rails’ is the type of song you’d take to Johnny Cash’s house for a campfire singalong. And I really wish I could’ve been in the studio to witness the recording of ‘Hey’, as Chambers and Kelly shout back and forth at each other: “Hey! You want it!” “Hey! You got it!”. You can hear the two smiling and laughing; you don’t hear that too often on a record these days.
The power of the pen means I get to indulge in my favourite track on the album and it just so happens to be the last. ‘Talkin’ Baby Blues’ is a riot! Never before has a song so raw and autobiographical been so outrageously funny.
Like all the best double albums, ‘Dragonfly’ leaps and dips like its name suggests. Twenty songs. A rambling, gambling, gorgeous patchwork quilt of styles and guises.
What holds it all together is the quality of songs. A songwriter of Kasey’s class in full stride is something to behold, and this ain’t her first rodeo. She knows what she’s doing. Some bruises and heartache remain, but what shines through is the artist’s irrepressible, optimistic spirit.
Life’s about balance, or so they say, so what would I ask for on the next album from our favourite gal? More handclaps. Clap clap.
- Robert Murphy, AFL Western Bulldogs Captain
There’s a moment in most artists’ young lives when they realise music will shape their future and define who they are. Kasey Chambers didn’t have to wait for that moment to arrive. Music is part of her DNA.
Born in Mt Gambier in South Australia, Kasey grew up in a home environment where listening to and performing country and roots music was a way of life. It had to rub off _and it did _ just as in later years, living on the Nullarbor Plain and travelling all over Australia with her family, the young Kasey got an education like no other.
She spent her childhood absorbing the music of Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash and other country greats loved by her parents. It was in the family’s revered Dead Ringer Band with dad Bill, mum Di and older brother Nash that 10-year-old Kasey got her first real taste of being on stage. By the time she was in her late teens she was fronting the band and writing some of the songs.