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Kasey Chambers

Dragonfly – 2017 (Essence/MGM)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by Kasey Chambers

Any double album is a project that comes with plenty of obstacles, namely trying to ensure the quality on the first song and the quality on the 20th song (or more) are relatively similar. For Australian singer-songwriter Kasey Chambers, she's decided to work that 2-disc muscle on the 20-track, two-disc "Dragonfly." It's an ambitious idea, and clearly she has something to say. But it's also one with thankfully only a few pitfalls between songs that are easy keepers. Another asset is there's not much fat, particularly on the second disc toe-tapper "Annabelle" fuelled by a gorgeous gear-changing arrangement and some terrific lap steel accents.

Whether it's on the bluesy crawler like "Ain't No Little Girl," which grows as she belts it out with barroom bravado or the ensuing "Summer Pillow," Chambers generally keeps the arrangements simple. This is in part due to having brother Nash Chambers alongside for most of the material, resulting in a gentle, reflective nugget like "Jonestown" worth repeated listens, particularly thanks to the great harmonies the siblings offer up.

It's quite apparent this is Chambers' album to shine and showcase a voice that is now healthy again after some repair to fix some nodules in 2016. From different refrains found on the first disc, particularly "Romeo & Juliet" and "You Ain't Worth Suffering For," which wouldn't be out of place on Sheryl Crow's "The Globe Sessions." Throughout it all, producer (and noted musician) Paul Kelly does a great job in the producer's chair for the first disc, making Chambers' vivid yarns come to life time and time again. He also lends his pipes to the give-and-take of "Hey."

The second disc doesn't stray too far from the style found on disc one, namely a warm, barren, but beautiful series of songs highlighted by the string-tinged title track. It's a track quite different from the opener "Shackle & Chain" which is one of the artist's sparser songs here. Meanwhile, Chambers shows that softer, gentler side of her style with the roots-based pop of "Satellite," which sees her collaborating with Ed Sheeran. Yes, that Ed Sheeran! But that little gem is one-upped when she teams up with country star Keith Urban for "If We Had A Child," an extremely tender piece of work the glides along effortlessly.

Other highlights include the Appalachian opener "Pompeii," which fortunately doesn't get stuck in any sonic mud as her performance would fall in line with Gillian Welch. The punchy little Sunday morning sing-along "Golden Rails" might have the listener attempting to find a nearby jug to blow into. However the rambling "Talkin' Baby Blues" is a rapid-fire Dylan-esque journey, which seems to miss the mark except for the lyric referencing her link to The Sopranos and the late James Gandolfini.

The distance from Chambers' birthplace of Mount Gambler, Australia to the Appalachian mountains is about 10,000 miles. But with "Dragonfly," she seems to have found herself knee deep in that fine musical tradition.