Kasey Chambers & The Fireside Disciples
The conceit of Campfire is a celebration of the lands that Chambers has traveled, particularly her homeland of Australia, and those guitar pull songs performed around the fire. The album succeeds at this goal, with a good dose of levity and singalong choruses that borrow heavily from regional vernacular. That alone would make it an entertaining album and an interesting conversation piece.
But Campfire goes beyond its concept, taking advantage of the acoustic nature of a campfire song to explore dark and heavy themes that draw on the melancholia that has always brought out the best in Chambers as a singer and a songwriter. “Abraham” is a stunning indictment of how Christians have failed to walk in the light, with a sucker punch chorus that uses a four letter word to powerful effect. “Go On Your Way” is a send-off to a passing family member that’s worthy of the Carter Family. “The Harvest & the Seed” welcomes Emmylou Harris to the campfire, a vocalist who elevates any recording with her mere presence.
Two of my favorite tracks explore relationships from two different perspectives. “Early Grave” documents a lover who wounds, while “The Fox and the Bird” documents the healing process and learning to trust again. These would’ve fit in great on any Chambers album, but there’s a particular beauty that comes from their simple arrangements here. As someone who doesn’t care much for what us nineties kids called “unplugged,” Chambers has enough character as a vocalist to render accompaniment unnecessary anyway.
American listeners, if you’re still sleeping on Kasey Chambers, wake up. She’s as good or better than any of our best singer-songwriters stateside, and she’s making the best music of her career lately.