MUSIC LOVERS, YOU can influence your child's future. If you want your kid to be a classical violinist, find a Suzuki teacher before your child graduates to solid foods. If you're a punk, you've got to hide your love away, lest junior's rebellious phase take the form of a boy band. If you have pop ambitions for the kid, try Star Search, dance lessons, and Disneyland. Or you can buy a camper van and home-school your child in some vast wilderness. Make sure you pack the CD collection, so music becomes the only connection your kid has with society. It worked for Jewel (raised in the Alaska wilderness), it worked for the Hanson brothers (raised in a cloistered Oklahoma Mormon household), and it's working for Kasey Chambers.
Chambers, a charming Australian singer/songwriter who spent her childhood wandering the remote outback while her parents hunted critters from their 4WD, grew up without a flush toilet. But she listened to lots of Hank and Emmylou, and to hear her pretty, wide-open twang, you'd think she was from near Nashville. Chambers sounds like a sassy, teenage Iris DeMent, with that emotional catch in her voice and a big debt owed to early folk and country singers. And like DeMent, the Aussie singer can a write a brand-new song that sounds like a standard. "We're All Gonna Die Someday" is a joyous, wacked-out hoedown. "This Flower" is a sweet tribute to friendship that should be sung round fires at summer camps across the land. And speaking of summer camp, Chambers's "These Pines" is the ultimate ode to homesickness. "These pines are not the ones that I'm used to/They won't carry me home when I cry," sings Chambers with an ache in her voice that doesn't bode well for her spirits on a world tour.
Chambers's slightly off-kilter songwriting has a contemporary sense of mischief in it, but, Aussie or not, this is an Americana album. Firmly rooted in traditional themes like deprivation, loneliness, and the wind whipping through the trees, Chambers clearly identifies with Depression-era songwriters. By turning off all the other noise and junk of the world, Chambers's folks gave her the chance to hear her own voice, and it comes through these songs loud and clear.