KASEY CHAMBERS at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Tuesday (March 6). Free. 416-598-4753.
at a time when the pre-eminence
of phony prefab pop is accepted as a matter of fact, the breakthrough of someone like Kasey Chambers -- who writes and sings simple, moving heart-songs -- is a shocking turn of events.
Even in Australia, the 24-year-old country outsider who grew up roaming the unforgiving Nullarbor Plain and singing Gram Parsons songs around the campfire was seen as a left-field long shot. But that was before her accomplished debut disc, The Captain (Asylum/Warner), won her country-artist-of-the-year honours.
For an encore, Chambers upstaged Oz pop superstars Kylie Minogue and Vanessa Amorosi at the ARIAs late last year and walked off with the female-artist-of-the-year award. Rewarding substance over slickness? That isn't the way popularity contests are supposed to work, but Chambers ain't complaining.
"It is kind of weird, isn't it," she chuckles before a show at Tipitina's in New Orleans. "I'm still trying to figure out how that happened. There must've been some kinda breakdown in the system."
Now, three years after she began shaking up the southern hemisphere, the so-called hippie chick with the stirring shout that cracks in all the right places is making a move north.
There's already a lineup forming for duets, with Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle holding numbers. It shouldn't be long before the rest of the continent falls under Chambers' spell.
"Because I have a career in Australia, I could hold off getting a U.S. deal until I find someone willing to take my albums as they are and accept me as I am. I have no interest in being manufactured into something I'm not.
"There were some offers from people in Nashville who told me how they would get me co-writing with their people and re-cut my album. Then they were going to send me to a special school to learn what not to say to the press. I'm not changing the way I look and I'm certainly not going through interview school."
Listening to The Captain, the influence of Lucinda Williams can clearly be heard in the straightforward way Chambers puts across a song. Actually, Williams is among Chambers' most ardent cheerleaders. They go drinking together, and last week Williams joined the Australian upstart in the studio to add backing vocals to Chambers' next album.
"As an artist, Lucinda is my main role model. We've spent quite a bit of time together over the last couple of years, and I've learned a lot from seeing the way she handles herself.
"She's been incredibly supportive. I did this in-store recently; here I was trying to play a song, and I look up for a second and -- oh, my god -- it's Lucinda Williams standing right there.
"How nerve-racking is that?" she laughs. "It's, like, "I'm flattered that you're here, but could you please disappear so I can finish the song?'" *
email@example.comKasey Chambers is ready to tangle with Nashville By TIM PERLICH