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Rattlin’ Bones

October 22, 2008

Kasey Chambers has never, ever shied away from singing about the questions that haunt her soul; questions about life and death, heaven and hell, Jesus and the devil, love and loss, prosperity and poverty.  Her husband, singer-songwriter Shane Nicholson (with whose work I am unfamiliar) joins her for this album as a writing and singing partner.  

And here’s where it works.  The album comes across as a truly collaborative effort.  It doesn’t sound like a Kasey album featuring Shane, or like a Shane album featuring Kasey.  It sounds like kaseyandshane, a unit who can write, play and sing as a unified whole.  The largely acoustic accompaniment lays a perfect foundation for their call-and-response duets and harmony choruses.  Their voices blend together perfectly as though they were made for each other.  But the sonic pallette is only a small part of what is really going on here.  The songwriting really shines.

The title track, Rattlin’ Bones, sets the tone for the rest of the album.  

[Shane] Left my home and left my love
[Kasey] Caught on a rusty nail
[Shane] Devil rose up, heavy with gold
[Kasey] My soul’s not for sale
[Shane] Then a holy man in a house of God
[Kasey] He offered me a book of prayer
[Shane] And when I left my home I left my love
[Both] I left my faith back there

And there it is: loss of love, faith and doubt, resisting temptation and searching for salvation, all in one verse.  That takes guts.  And talent.  Kasey and Shane have both in spades.

The seemingly simple No One Hurts Up Here sounds like a simple meditation on the faith claim that all suffering ends in heaven, but the sparse musical accompaniment and the resignation in Chambers’ voice makes it sound more desperate than that, like the prayer of one trying to reassure herself that her suffering won’t last forever.  That feeling is reinforced by the next song, an ironically upbeat-sounding The Devil’s Inside My Head.  

There is one perfectly placed false start, right at the beginning of The House That Never Was.  The tempo is set, Nicholson counts off, then it falls apart.  Laughter erupts, and spoken responses by Nicholson and Chambers remind the listener that for this album perhaps every other Americana artist is being outdone by a band of Australians.  

In short, this may be my favorite of Kasey Chambers’ albums – which is a big claim given how much I love Barricades and Brickwalls.  The disc has been available overseas for several months now, but has just been distributed in the US this month.  It was worth the wait.

Strongly recommended.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2008 7:53 am

    I just got around to listening to this album, and I really like it a lot! Excellent old-school country-folk – kinda reminds me of some of those great Gram & Emmylou songs, especially tracks like “The House That Never Was” & “Wildflower”.

    It’s a shame that two Australians can make better American music than most Americans…

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. November 17, 2008 3:03 pm

    So glad to find another Kasey Chambers fan. I have not gotten the newest album but I have all of her other ones. Am looking forward to checking it out. Cheers.

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