Kasey Chambers sits in that rare artistic position having sold 1.2 million albums as a hugely successful commercial songwriter/performer, while still retaining integrity and respect from the country and alt-country communities where she first established her talent. Bittersweet is Chambers’ first album since she split from husband Shane Nicholson after they released their 2011 collaborative album Wreck & Ruin. It finds her canvasing a range of styles and moods, often with religious/biblical references, without sacrificing her heart-on-sleeve emotiveness, innate sense of melody and country heart.
Chambers also recorded the album without brother Nash in the producer chair and that no doubt played a large part in the freshness and wider framework of musicality on which the songs are built. ‘Hell Of A Way To Go’ is positively Stevie Nicks-ish with its sultry, snaking groove, ‘Stalker’ is contemporary bluegrass rock ’n’ roll in the vein of Little Bastard while ‘House On A Hill’ is a traditionally heartbreaking country lament using a crumbling house as a metaphor for a fragmenting relationship or state of mind. The title track, a duet with Bernard Fanning, sways with a Neil Young looseness that works surprisingly well.
Chambers does occasionally cross the line into over-earnestness like the lyrically unconvincing ‘Is God Real’ but those misfires are few and far between. Chambers has again come up with a strong batch of songs that give her the opportunity to rewardingly dig into a few vocal corners she hasn’t explored to any great extent on previous albums.
this review was first published in The Music