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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Kasey Chambers gets under the skin

Hollywood, Cal., The Roxy, March 22, 2001

By Dan MacIntosh

HOLLYWOOD, CA - Southern California alt.-country music fans are probably more convinced now than ever that Australians can (should?) teach Americans a few things about making real country music. Especially, after hearing the bright young voice of Kasey Chambers, who matched inspired cover songs with equally inspiring originals for a fully satisfying concert experience.

Although she apologized for it, many of her originals, such as "Cry Like A Baby" and "Don't Talk Back," are infused with an overriding sadness about them. But her perky between song introductions never failed to offset these depressing tunes, and insured that this night would not become a sob fest.

With that said, it should come as no great surprise, then, that Iris Dement is a big influence on Chambers. She chose Dement's "No Time To Cry" as one of her encores and sang it ever so slowly and painfully, with only her acoustic guitar.

The evening's other Dement-related selection was a duet with her bass player on the slightly naughty "In Spite Of Ourselves," which John Prine wrote and recorded as a duet with Dement.

You never knew what Chambers was going to pull out of her bag, as she sang a jumping "Cow Cow Boogie," in addition to covers of both Woody Guthrie and Lucinda Williams songs.

Chambers' best compositions came at the end when she sang the desperate "Don't Talk Back" and the devoted "The Captain." What she lacked in originality in her lyrics, she more than made up for with focused singing and natural charm. One suspects that more mature writing will more than likely come with age.

Her four-piece band was perfectly synchronized to her singing, and this was probably due in part to having her dad - who originally introduced Chambers to hardcore country music - playing guitar with her. Her brother, who chipped in on bass for one song, also ran the sound, making this truly a family affair.

You were only reminded of Chambers' national origins when she spoke, because whenever she was singing, this bright young talent sounded about as pure as country gets as she skillfully got down under your skin.