100 Greatest Women, #56. Kasey Chambers

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

#56

Kasey Chambers

2008 Edition: New Entry

A singular talent who massively increased the popularity of country music in her native Australia, Kasey Chambers has earned an international following with her fearless and intimate take on the genre.

First cutting her teeth as a performer alongside her parents, Bill and Diane, and brother Nash in their successful family band, The Dead Ringer Band, Chambers embarked on a solo career in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. That experience informed the songs on her debut album, 1999’s The Captain, which immediately announced Chambers as an artist to be reckoned with on her own terms. The album’s singles garnered heavy rotation on CMT, and the title track was even featured in cultural juggernaut The Sopranos; country radio in the US didn’t know what to make of Chambers’ inimitable voice, but The Captain did sneak onto the bottom of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. In her native Australia, though, Chambers was a superstar in the making: The Captain was certified double platinum and earned a pair of ARIA awards, the equivalent of a Grammy for the Australian Record Industry Association.

Chambers’ follow-up was an even grittier, harder-hitting effort, and it brought the singer-songwriter her greatest commercial success. Barricades & Brickwalls won three more ARIA awards on the strength of Chambers’ signature hit, “Not Pretty Enough,” and the album was certified seven-times platinum in Australia; the only Australian artist to outsell Chambers in 2002 was Kylie Minogue, whose single “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” became a global phenomenon. CMT again featured Chambers in strong rotation, and No Depression loudly beat the drum for her, leading to a debut at #13 on the Top Country Albums chart stateside.

Her subsequent albums explored different facets of the country, rock, and folk genres, and Chambers continued to remain wildly popular in Australia and to build a devoted cult following internationally. Wayward Angel and Carnival were more polished records than their predecessor, and the former earned Chambers her third win for Best Country Album from the ARIAs.

In 2008, Chambers and her then-husband, Shane Nicholson, released Rattlin’ Bones, a tremendous collaborative album that returned to the more rough-hewn country style of her earlier albums. In addition to being embraced once again by the ARIAs, the project earned Chambers her first nominations from the Americana Music Association, where she and Chambers were nominated both for Best Duo / Group and Song of the Year for the album’s stirring call-and-response title track. The couple released another acclaimed duet album, 2013’s Wreck & Ruin, before announcing their divorce later that year.

Of her solo efforts, 2010’s Little Bird was her last album to be certified gold in Australia, though acclaim for projects like 2011’s covers album, Storybook, remained undiminished. In 2017, Chambers returned with the most ambitious album of her career, the sprawling and heady double-album, Dragonfly, which featured a duet with her fellow Australian country artist, Keith Urban. Chambers followed up that set, which was yet another ARIA winner for Best Country Album, with the rootsy Campfire, featuring collaborations with her father Bill and Emmylou Harris, in early 2018.

Essential Albums

  • The Captain, 1999
  • Barricades & Brickwalls, 2001
  • Rattlin’ Bones (with Shane Nicholson), 2008
  • Wreck & Ruin (with Shane Nicholson), 2013
  • Dragonfly, 2017
  • Campfire, 2018

Essential Singles

  • Cry Like a Baby, 2000
  • The Captain, 2000
  • Not Pretty Enough, 2002
  • Pony, 2005
  • Rattlin’ Bones (with Shane Nicholson), 2008
  • Little Bird, 2010
  • Wheelbarrow, 2014
  • Ain’t No Little Girl, 2017
  • The Campfire Song, 2018

Industry Awards

  • Americana Music Association Honors & Awards
    • Vanguard Award, 2017
  • ARIA Music Awards
    • Album of the Year
      • Barricades & Brickwalls, 2002
    • Best Country Album
      • The Captain, 1999
      • Barricades & Brickwalls, 2002
      • Wayward Angel, 2004
      • Rattlin’ Bones (with Shane Nicholson), 2008
      • Little Bird, 2011
      • Wreck & Ruin (with Shane Nicholson), 2013
      • Bittersweet, 2014
      • Dragonfly, 2017
    • Best Female Artist, 2000, 2002, 2004

100 Greatest Women: 10th Anniversary Edition

Next: #55. Olivia Newton-John

Previous: #57. Jeannie C. Riley

 

4 Comments

  1. Such a great profile of an essential artist, Jonathan! I can’t believe that I missed her completely on the 2008 list. She should be enjoying a healthy jump this time around instead of a high new entry.

  2. Great profile for an overlooked artist. Surprised but not disappointed in her high ranking. Nice selections for her essential music.

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