Category: Kasey Chambers

Other Voices, Aussie Blogs:
Kasey Chambers covers Suzanne Vega

August 15th, 2011 — 08:50 pm

Understated Aussie-based blog Timber & Steel may well be my new favorite folk/americana blog, bar none. The mix of undersung local Australian acts and international acoustic and nu-folk – aka “folk music that falls through the cracks between the trad and indie scenes” – is impeccable, the content is always fresh and often first to hit the web, and the short blurbs which typify the entries are generally spot on, making for an environment that enriches the soul and the ears.

As they rightly note, native daughter Kasey Chambers‘ brand new cover of Suzanne Vega radiohit Luka is somewhere perfectly poised between 80s pop and modern country twang – a bit of a stretch for both the blog and the singer-songwriter. Is this first single from upcoming album Storybook (due Sept. 23) indicative of a new, more polished sound than her previous work? Has Chambers, whose song Beautiful Mess was awarded this year’s Grand Prize at the International Songwriting Competition back in May, trying to have her cake and eat others’, too? Time will tell.

Add Timber & Steel to your daily list to see more hot & cool delights from Down Under. But first, the video no one but us is talking about…yet.

  • Kasey Chambers: Luka (orig. Suzanne Vega)
    (from Storybook, 2011)

Previously on Cover Lay Down: Kasey Chambers covers Dolly Parton, Lucinda Williams x2, The Louvin Brothers, and other country icons.

1 comment » | Kasey Chambers

Kasey Chambers Covers:
Son Volt, Ben Harper, Cyndi Lauper, Dolly Parton, Crowded House & more!

November 17th, 2009 — 11:25 pm

I keep missing Kasey Chambers when she comes through town, but it’s not for lack of trying. The Australian singer-songwriter with the airy twang in her voice does heartache so well, it’s a dream of mine to sit on the grass at some summery festival, eyes closed, letting the bittersweet music burn through me like the sunshine.

Kasey’s talent springs from growing up with music in her veins: the daughter of steel guitar player Bill Chambers, she picked up her first strings early, and spent an adolescent decade on the road with her parents and brother as the Dead Ringer Band, a mid-nineties staple on the Australian Country charts. When her parents separated in 1998, the band broke up as well; Kasey went solo, emerging with a debut album in 2000, and brother Nash moved behind the scenes as her producer. The Captain was a perfect showcase for a well-honed sense of song, but more than anything, it was the tension between that girlish voice and the mature, direct depth of her sentiment which caught – and kept – the minds and hearts of her listeners.

Since then, Chambers has continued to demonstrate a knack for the perfect hook, and a true-blue countryfolk craftswoman’s sense of emotional lyrics. Like Payton, who does a great artist spotlight, Nelson, who calls Kasey’s music “life-changing”, and Simon, whose recent celebration reminded me I was long overdue for a feature on her, I have a special place in my collection for her still-short post-millennial canon, up to and including last year’s decent (but sadly coverless) collaboration with hubby Shane Nicholson, and consider her 2001 sophomore effort Barricades and Brickwalls an essential component of the modern folk-listener’s soundscape.

But like her own heroine Lucinda Williams, who we featured here last May, Kasey is a powerful interpreter of song, too. And though as a fellow child of the late eighties I come back to her Crowded House and Cyndi Lauper covers more than anything, she’s especially, undeniably adept with others from the country side of folk, where Americana and alt-country live. Fred Eaglesmith, Son Volt, Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton and Gram Parsons may represent the farflung corners of a musical subgenre, but in Kasey’s capable hands, their songs take on angst, ache, and the lonely sorrow of a universal outback. Were it not for that slight Aussie intonation, the music could come from any country’s dustbowl heartland or country barroom.

Here’s the aforementioned, and a few others, with thanks to Simon of Beat Surrender for passing on several of the rarities included below; though they cover but a few years in total, they show a strong diversity of style and substance, and speak well of why so many of us celebrate Kasey’s life and music. I’ve arranged the solo cuts, at least, in rough chronological order, with hopes that someday the list will stretch from here to infinite summer.

Kasey’s solo albums all come highly recommended, and they can all be purchased direct from the source along with the usual wearables. Her most recent project, an original family-made kids album called Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill and the Little Hillbillies, is a bit sparse and silly, but it has its sweet moments; I can’t find a source for hardcopy US sales, but the album is available through iTunes.

But wait! There’s more! Today’s bonus tracks include a pair of collaborations, both early and more recent…

…and a lone cover of Kasey’s work – there’s not that many Kasey Chambers covers to be found this side of the equator – but it’s well worth the space, both for its exquisitely bitter lyric and for the weary live interpretation which local hero Lori McKenna brings to the tune:

  • Lori McKenna: Ignorance (orig. Kasey Chambers)
    (from Signature Sounds 10th Anniversary Collection [out of print], 2004)

Previously on Cover Lay Down: Bill Chambers covers Mary Gauthier, and other drunkard songs.

936 comments » | Kasey Chambers

Covered in Folk: Cyndi Lauper (Greg Laswell, Kasey Chambers, Eva Cassidy, Willie Nelson, etc.)

May 14th, 2008 — 10:08 am

As an unabashed child of the 80s, I grew up with a particular image of Cyndi Lauper in my head, and it wasn’t pretty: hanks of bright-colored hair, that highpitched little-girl voice, the theme song to Goonies, that weird staged event with beer-bellied wrestler Lou Albano that years later comes across as even more creepy than it was back then.

But something was in the air, even then — something which didn’t gell with that synth-heavy dance-pop production and bouncy airhead persona. It turned out other songwriters really respected Cyndi Lauper. When, in the late nineties, Cyndi began to pull away from the charts and the public eye, she remained in the industry, taking stage roles, working behind the scenes as a vocal coach. You’d still see her every once in a while, passing through the red carpet crowd at the usual run of awards shows, and the people who stepped aside for her were people whose opinion we respected.

Some of the reasons people loved Cyndi had to do with who she was as a person — a scrappy kid who had to kick-start her career several times to get heard, only to garner a record-breaking number of singles from mid-eighties release She’s So Unusual. Some had to do with sheer admiration of talent — love it or hate it, but that unique voice has a four octave range and a flexibility that many other megastars would die for. But though Cyndi continued to tour, outside the industry, with the exception of a few VH1 appearances, and a brief flash of misty-eyed memory when a few select somebodies like Phil Collins hit the charts with a cover, most of us forgot about Cyndi.

Then, in 2005, Cyndi partnered with several contemporary artists from Shaggy to Sarah McLachlan to release The Body Acoustic, a series of gorgeous, slow interpretations of her older songs that showed just what we had missed behind the synthesizer pop. The album charted on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts, where her earliest fans, their ears mellowed with age, were ready to welcome her back. And, simultaneously, a generation that had grown up like I did, eyes glued to the early stages of MTV, began mining their own past, finding surprising sentiment in the songs of their hairspray childhood.

It turns out when you strip those songs down, and recast them as folk, they speak to the heart. And though some of today’s coversongs wobble on the edge of oversentiment, it takes but a short survey – let’s say, a few choice covers of just three of Cyndi Lauper’s most famous songs — to recast Cyndi once and for all as a songwriter and song interpreter who may not have been in full control of her image, but sure as folk had the chops.

So here’s those mid-career covers from Willie Nelson and long-gone bluesfolk songstress Eva Cassidy, plus some choice contemporary covers of Cyndi Lauper’s work from a wide variety of folk artists. From the rich, majestic pianofolk of Greg Laswell to the more atmospheric indie guitar style of Norman Palm, from Benjamin Costello‘s delicate pianopop to Allison Crowe‘s heartfelt guitarfolk to the rough live stylings of indie band Wakey! Wakey!, from Kasey Chambers‘ stunning acoustic folkpop to the mystical jangly jazz stylings of Cassandra Wilson, they go a long way towards explaining why Cyndi Lauper merits her success, and her praise.

Remember, kids: instead of supporting faceless megacorporations which ask artists to take the least share of their due for the greatest part of the work, all artist and album links here on Cover Lay Down go direct to label homepages and artist preferred source for purchase – the most effective way to help keep music in the hands of musicians. If you like what you hear, head over to the sites and purchase an album or three. I especially recommend Greg Laswell’s new EP How The Day Sounds, the collected posthumous works of Eva Cassidy, and anything by Kasey Chambers. And cover lovers will be especially tickled by the loads of free downloads available from Wakey! Wakey!, Allison Crowe, and Benjamin Costello.

Cover Lay Down publishes regularly on Wednesdays, Sundays, and the occasional Friday. Coming up: a return to our exploration of folk subgenres, and a feature on a favorite young singer-songwriter and cover artist in recognition of her newest collaborative album.

249 comments » | Allison Crowe, Benjamin Costello, Cassandra Wilson, Covered in Folk, Cyndi Lauper, Eva Cassidy, Greg Laswell, Kasey Chambers, Norman Palm, Wakey Wakey, Willie Nelson

Covered In Folk: the Down Under Edition: Kasey Chambers and others cover Tim and Neil Finn of Crowded House

October 13th, 2007 — 12:46 am

I saw Tim and Neil Finn open for 10,000 Maniacs way back in the hairspray eighties, before Natalie Merchant turned into a banjo-playing folk recluse. Though back then my tastes ran to the produced radioplay of Finn-led popgroup Crowded House, there was something arresting in the simple guitar interplay and close harmonies of the Brothers Finn, riding high on first big Crowded House single Don’t Dream It’s Over. Their songs revealed a surprising poignancy once the wall of sound came down — one that still comes through powerfully, despite the ravages of age in their voices, on their recent Finn Brothers release, and in the newly-reincarnated Crowded House that was all the rage at Coachella this year.

Since then, I’ve learned that Tim’s the new-waver and Neil’s the pop star. Tim’s solo work includes singles but no hits, which is a shame, really: he writes decent if simple melodies, and his more recent work is stark and fine, but he’s spent much of his career burying it under synthesizer and make-up. The rest of the record-buying public seems to appreciate Neil’s slightly softer songwriting more, if sales are an accurate indication. In my experience, though, when they write together, as they did for most of 1991 album Woodface, the end result is the best of both worlds.

Sixpence None the Richer does a sicklysweet girlpop cover of Don’t Dream It’s Over that you’ve heard a hundred times; their version is probably more true to the original recordings than anything else out there. But the best covers of Finn Brothers’ work strip it down to the bare essentials. Want proof? Here’s Aussie folk sensation Kasey Chambers with a version of Neil’s Better Be Home Soon from 2005 Tim and Neil tribute album She Will Have Her Way that will make you cry, and another simple cover of a song co-written by Tim and Neil, just for comparison’s sake:

  • Kasey Chambers covers Better Be Home Soon (orig. Crowded House)
  • New Buffalo covers Four Seasons in One Day (orig. Crowded House)

The above cuts plus other beautiful coverversions, all by female Australasian artists, can be yours with the purchase of She Will Have Her Way; I recommend that you buy the bonus version, which is cheaper and includes all the originals, too! Chambers’ solo work is not available through her website, but has acceptable prices. The acoustic intimacy of Finn Brothers release Everyone Is Here is gorgeous; I hear the new Crowded House album Time On Earth is good, too. Or there’s always 1991 popgem Woodface, available on the cheap at your local bargain bin.

Today’s bonus coversongs:

  • Jennifer Kimball’s lush cover of Crowded House hit Fall At Your Feet
  • Neil Finn’s live cover of the Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
  • Kasey Chambers’s amazing cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s Freight Train

Extra special bonus:

  • Richard and Teddy Thompson recover* Persuasion (orig. Thompson/Finn)

    *Originally, Persuasion was a Richard Thompson instrumental theme written in 1991 for the movie Sweet Talker; Tim Finn liked it so much that he added lyrics and re-recorded it. Richard and Teddy cut this version with Finn’s lyrics in 2000. Technically, that doesn’t make it a cover, but I think it qualifies as a “re-cover”, so I’m going to let it stand.

1,143 comments » | Covered in Folk, Crowded House, Finn Brothers, Freg Eaglesmith, Jennifer Kimball, Kasey Chambers, Neil Finn, New Buffalo, Richard Thompson, Teddy Thompson, The Smiths, Tim Finn