Kasey Chambers’ last release was a double album, a sprawling and diverse set that at times felt like it would have benefited from more editing and quality control. Perhaps in reaction to the nature of that album she’s retreated to the campfire as both a symbol and a literal focal point for this set of magnificent songs.
Chambers has gathered around her three musicians – her dad Bill, longtime collaborator Brandon Dodd and WA indigenous elder and musician Alan Pigram. It’s a combination that works wonderfully. There’s a restraint and respect in the songs they play together. This is communal song built on listening as much as playing together – again reflecting the importance of the campfire in the theme of the album.
The songs range from sparse, dark folk where the strings rattle and you can hear the inhalations of the singers, to fun rattle and shake blues tunes (‘Goliath Is Dead’). The country gospel harmonies of ‘Abraham’ hang sweet and sorrowful in the evening air, slowly unfurling over six minutes of shimmering guitar and intimate storytelling. On ‘The Harvest & The Seed’ Chambers duets with Emmylou Harris, their voices intertwining like skyward songbirds in the analogous tale of land and family. The quiet/loud dynamics of ‘Now That You’ve Gone’ is another riposte to critics of Chambers’ voice. Here, and across the album, it is varied and compelling.
On all of these songs, attention is given to the tone and atmosphere of the songs, ensuring the focus is squarely on the performances and the well-crafted heart of the songs.