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Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson

Wreck & Ruin – 2012 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson

Throughout her career, Kasey Chambers has never made any clear distinction between the rural environs where she was raised in her native Australia and the musical traditions that govern authentic Americana. The product of a musical family, she absorbed it all, embracing a heritage so diverse that her enthusiasm can barely be contained. It's little wonder than that she recently released two albums practically simultaneously, one, entitled "Storybook" that's all iconic covers (by the likes of Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Hank Williams and John Prine among them), the other, "Wreck & Ruin," a collection of originals that comes remarkably close to capturing a similar air of authenticity.

Granted, the songs on "Wreck & Ruin" can't claim a venerable birthright, but Chambers and her husband and partner Shane Nicholson give them a dusty, sepia-tinged treatment that has them sounding archival all the same. Recorded in the far reaches of the Australian Outback, the songs are given stripped-down arrangements that seem especially apt for recasting traditional tunes. Not surprisingly then, banjo, Dobro, fiddle and mandolin are the instruments of choice, which not only accommodates the bare-boned feel of songs like Dustbowl, Rusted Shoes andFamiliar Strangers, but also the knee-slapping revelry of the title track and Sick as a Dog. That unassuming approach also works wonders in conveying the gospel-like devotion inherent in Have Mercy on Me, not to mention the old time ambiance of a track like Up or Down.

Music often makes the world seem like a small place, a notion that an album like "Wreck & Ruin" effectively implies. Indeed, credit Chambers and Nicholson for suggesting Aussie's Outback and the rural reaches of Americana are intrinsically tied.